- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

From Al Gore down, the Democratic campaign to overturn the Florida election has been consistent in its expression of the purest of principles every vote should count. These assertions have been designed to obscure the most contaminated of procedures: namely, the selective, subjective and chaotic hand-count in several of Florida's Democratic counties orchestrated to re-evaluate previously invalidated ballots as new votes for Mr. Gore.

Furthermore, the Gore campaign does not mean all the votes. There is no other conclusion to draw after observing the Gore troops waging war on the ground let alone in the courts for almost two weeks now. We have had the O.J. Simpson "Dream Team's" Alan Dershowitz and the vaunted Warren Christopher lobbying for hand counts; Jesse Jackson in the streets; the legions of Gore operatives, characterized by the Los Angeles Times as a "seasoned Democratic army," parachuting into the state to "help" with the recount. Reporting on a kind of ballot-counting class attended by "vanloads" of AFL-CIO staffers and Gore loyalists in Fort Lauderdale last week, the newspaper described the following exchange: " 'Our goal,' said one lawyer as he patiently lectured his new charges, 'is to preserve the Al Gore vote.' The volunteers nodded. 'It's very, very important that if you see any kind of mark a scratch, a dent, a pinprick in Al Gore's column that you challenge.' When someone asked what they should do if they found a Bush ballot with an indent, the lawyer said: 'Keep your lips sealed.' " Ruthlessness so plain-spoken is as chilling for its unabashedness as for its unmistakable political menace. So much for Mr. Gore's "time to respect every voter and every vote."

Remember those words as the scandalous fate of the military absentee ballots becomes better known this week. The facts known so far are that roughly 1,000 military absentee ballots have been disqualified as a result of what appears to have been a concerted Democratic effort to suppress as many reliably Bush-leaning military ballots as possible. That is, just as Democratic volunteers were able to cram for their bare-knuckled chad-handling exercises (see above), they also got a crash course in protesting overseas ballots. Last week, Mark Herron, a Tallahassee lawyer assisting with Democratic election lawsuits in the Florida courts, sent to Democratic attorneys, observers and canvassing board members, a five-page letter outlining techniques to protest overseas ballots.

These instructions included a section on challenging military postmarks alone. Mr. Herron must be a proud American indeed to see how effectively his lessons were learned as Democrat-controlled election boards masterfully nullified the votes of sailors, for example, who, having voted on ships at sea, failed in their duty as American citizens to send in ballots marked with conventional postmarks. Fully 60 percent of the mostly military overseas ballots were invalidated in counties carried by Mr. Gore, as opposed to 29 percent in counties won by Mr. Bush. In Democratic Broward County alone, the canvassing board threw out 304 out of 396 overseas ballots.

Little wonder that retired Gen. H. Norman Schwartzkopf spoke out, calling it "a very sad day for our country" when servicemen and women find that "because of some technicality out of their control they are denied the right to vote for the president of the United States, who will be their commander in chief." But it is not only sad. It is outrageous. And it is particularly outrageous because the Democratic rhetoric about the need to count every vote as if every vote has not already been counted once, twice, and thrice continues unchecked by mounting evidence to the contrary. When history weighs the charges of attempted robbery against the Gore campaign, it will also have to consider the charge of grievous assault by sanctimony.

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