The Death of the Butterfly Ballot

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And that's the end of the butterfly ballot.

Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters relayed the news at the end of a very busy legal day: "We conclude as a matter of law that the Palm Beach County ballot does not constitute substantial noncompliance with the statutory requirements mandating the voiding of the election." With prejudice. Meaning end of story.

Palm Beach County's unexpectedly robust Buchanan vote was the earliest hint of madness in the post-election haze of November 8. Thousands of voters complained that the ballot's confusing design had led them to punch hole No. 4, for Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster (odd, certainly, for a heavily Jewish community) instead of hole No. 5, for Gore and Joe Lieberman. (The ballot design had been approved by a Democrat, who was trying to enlarge the type for the benefit of those same largely elderly voters.)

Some of those voters sued, seeking a revote or statistical adjustment, and the issue became the political noisemaker of the past three weeks while the rest of the Bush-Gore war slogged though one court or another. In his first nationally televised "offer" to Bush, Gore took the issue off the table, but Bush turned up his nose. And the issue continued to percolate in the courts, first in Palm Beach — where five judges recused themselves from the case — then in Leon County, finally landing in the Florida Supreme Court. Ticking, ticking, ticking, ready to blow.

Friday, at the end of a very busy legal day, it stopped. The Florida Supremes consolidated all the voter lawsuits in one and declared the ballot legal. Period. No revote. No remedy. No thousands and thousands of votes for Al Gore.

Well, there's always those absentee-ballot applications in Seminole County.