Al Gore, not George Bush, should be sitting in the White House today as the newly elected president of the United States, two new independent probes of the disputed Florida election contest have confirmed.
The first survey, conducted on behalf of the Washington Post, shows that Mr Gore had a nearly three-to-one majority among 56,000 Florida voters whose November 7 ballot papers were discounted because they contained more than one punched hole.
The second and separate survey, conducted on behalf of the Palm Beach Post, shows that Mr Gore had a majority of 682 votes among the discounted “dimpled” ballots in Palm Beach county.
In each case, if the newly examined votes had been allowed to count in the November election, Mr Gore would have won Florida’s 21 electoral college votes by a narrow majority and he, not Mr Bush, would be the president. Instead, Mr Bush officially carried Florida by 537 votes after recounts were stopped.
In spite of the findings, no legal challenge to the Florida result is possible in the light of the US supreme court’s 5-4 ruling in December to hand the state to Mr Bush. But the revelations will continue to cast a cloud, to put it mildly, over the democratic legitimacy of Mr Bush’s election.