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The Butterfly Did It: The Aberrant Vote for Buchanan in Palm Beach County, Florida

    • Published online: 01 April 2002

We show that the butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County, Florida, in the 2000 presidential election caused more than 2,000 Democratic voters to vote by mistake for Reform candidate Pat Buchanan, a number larger than George W. Bush’s certified margin of victory in Florida. We use multiple methods and several kinds of data to rule out alternative explanations for the votes Buchanan received in Palm Beach County. Among 3,053 U.S. counties where Buchanan was on the ballot, Palm Beach County has the most anomalous excess of votes for him. In Palm Beach County, Buchanan’s proportion of the vote on election-day ballots is four times larger than his proportion on absentee (nonbutterfly) ballots, but Buchanan’s proportion does not differ significantly between election-day and absentee ballots in any other Florida county. Unlike other Reform candidates in Palm Beach County, Buchanan tended to receive election-day votes in Democratic precincts and from individuals who voted for the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate. Robust estimation of overdispersed binomial regression models underpins much of the analysis.

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Herron worked on this paper while a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences, Harvard University. Previous versions were presented at the 2001 Joint Statistical Meetings, American Statistical Association, Social Statistics Section, Atlanta, GA, August 5–9, and at the 2001 annual meeting of the Public Choice Society, San Antonio, TX, March 9–11. The authors, who are listed in reverse alphabetical order, served as unpaid expert witnesses in Case CL 00-10992AF in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, West Palm Beach: Beverly Rogers and Ray Kaplan v. The Palm Beach County Elections Canvassing Commission; et al. (see Brady et al. 2001). The authors thank Todd Rice and Lamarck, Inc., for their generous support and provision of computing resources, Kevin Matthews of the Department of Geography, George Mason University, for mapmaking services, Benjamin Bishin and Laurel Elms for research assistance, and seminar participants at Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, and Northwestern University for helpful comments.
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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