The Florida statutes related to elections are listed in Title IX[1]. The full text of all statutes cited here are listed on the Online Sunshine site run by the state legislature, and all quotes appear as the law existed at the time of the general election of 2000. I have emphasized some phrases; all emphasis is added.

There have been specific allegations related to Palm Beach County's ballots for the US 2000 presidential election, namely:

  1. That over 19,000 votes were discarded because more than one presidential candidate was selected;
  2. That the ballot's design was confusing in a way that could have led to people mistakenly voting for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

Part of the second allegation consists of the fact that the holes for punching the ballot card were in the center of two columns of candidate pairs, and that Florida law requires voters to make an X on the right side of the candidate's name. However, this phrase appears in a section describing the requirements for paper ballots, not to punch card ballots.

These excerpts are presented to demonstrate the parts of Florida law which could be revelant. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, and there may well be other relevant statutes which I have omitted. Please /msg me if this is the case.


Florida Statute 101.5609, Ballot Requirements:

(1) When an electronic or electromechanical voting system utilizes a ballot card or paper ballot which is distributed to electors, the ballot shall meet the following requirements:


(6) Voting squares may be placed in front of or in back of the names of candidates and statements of questions and shall be of such size as is compatible with the type of system used. Ballots and ballot information shall be printed in a size and style of type as plain and clear as the ballot spaces reasonably permit.


Florida Statute 102.168, Contest of Election:

(3) The complaint shall set forth the grounds on which the contestant intends to establish his or her right to such office or set aside the result of the election on a submitted referendum. The grounds for contesting an election under this section are:

(a) Misconduct, fraud, or corruption on the part of any election official or any member of the canvassing board sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the election.

(b) Ineligibility of the successful candidate for the nomination or office in dispute.

(c) Receipt of a number of illegal votes or rejection of a number of legal votes sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the election.

(d) Proof that any elector, election official, or canvassing board member was given or offered a bribe or reward in money, property, or any other thing of value for the purpose of procuring the successful candidate's nomination or election or determining the result on any question submitted by referendum.

(e) Any other cause or allegation which, if sustained, would show that a person other than the successful candidate was the person duly nominated or elected to the office in question or that the outcome of the election on a question submitted by referendum was contrary to the result declared by the canvassing board or election board.


(8) The circuit judge to whom the contest is presented may fashion such orders as he or she deems necessary to ensure that each allegation in the complaint is investigated, examined, or checked, to prevent or correct any alleged wrong, and to provide any relief appropriate under such circumstances.



The Democratic woman who designed the ballot (Theresa LePore) was defending the ballot's layout yesterday. The so-called "butterfly ballot" was chosen to fit all of the names on the ballot. Because of the large elderly population in Palm Beach County, the text was made large as to fulfill the "size and style of type as plain and clear as the ballot spaces reasonably permit" part of the law. It was decided the butterfly ballot would be the best way to accomplish this.

The ballot is not uncommon across the country. Practically identical ballots are in use in [Vice President Al Gore's campaign chairman] William Daley's own Cook County, Illinois.

Also of note is that copies of the ballot were widely distributed days before the election, and the layout was not challenged or questioned. Staff were on hand at each polling place for those confused with the ballot's layout. I feel a legal challenge to the ballot would have little chance of success, especially considering the relatively large number of Reform Party members in Palm Beach County.

Though I have some experience working for a county judge, I am also not a lawyer, so take my predictions for what they are worth.

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