For Immediate Release

December 15, 2000

Editorial Statement by Eleanor Smeal on the 2000 Presidential Election

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to stop the recounting and remand the case of undercounted ballots back to the Florida Supreme Court has disparately penalized women and people of color who voted disproportionately for Gore nationwide. This anti-democratic outcome in the long run may have the greatest impact on the rights of women and people of color.

Not counting the votes that machines failed to count disenfranchised some voters and devalued the majority of votes of women and people of color. This in combination with the electoral college system, which represents states, not people, and the outdated voting equipment in minority-dominated and woman-dominated districts contributed to a gross discounting of women and minority votes that was enshrined in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Women cast some seven million more votes than men in the 2000 election. Black voter turnout was the highest it has been in years. Seventy-nine percent of Jews nationwide voted for Gore. In Florida itself, Gore got 93 percent of the African-American vote and 53 percent of the women’s vote. There was an eleven-point gender gap in Florida with a majority of women voting for Gore and a majority of men voting for Bush. Women were 53 percent of the electorate nationwide, and 54 percent in Florida. Why did the standard of equal protection matter only in the counting of cards or chads, but not in the right of voters to have their votes counted? Why was the constitutional balance of the 13th and 19th Amendments that granted blacks and women the right to vote left out of the equation in the Supreme Court’s decision? Why count absentee ballots with gross irregularities and stop recounting in highly contested counties like Palm Beach and Miami-Dade?

While the majority of women and minority voters in the state of Florida voted for Gore, the Florida State Legislature voted 79-41 in favor of choosing Bush electors. In an evenly divided contest among the voters, it was shocking that the Florida House would disregard the votes of its own constituents and vote overwhelmingly (nearly 2-1) for a Bush slate. It is more and more evident as this process continues that gerrymandering has led the state of Florida to this point. Feminists must question the districting process and make our voices heard in the post-Census redistricting to take place before the 2002 elections. Anti-feminist, anti-choice, anti-lesbian and gay, and anti-civil rights politicians have manipulated votes by controlling the cutting of district lines, ensuring that women’s votes and black and hispanic votes are underrepresented in the state legislatures for years.

This election was wrought with tactics designed to discount the women’s and minority vote, from the outdated voting machines to the intimidation of black voters. I was shocked by the thug methods used to keep African Americans from the polls in the year 2000, 135 years after the end of the Civil War and 40 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. And it was a thug action that stopped the initial Miami-Dade recount. Another tragedy of this election was that the butterfly ballot that resulted in Jewish-dominated districts voting for Buchanan was left to stand. Women, blacks, and Jews were cheated _ and so we were all cheated _ by technicalities. Until the feminist movement — together with the civil rights, lesbian and gay rights, and other progressive movements — deals with redistricting and with the details of the elections, we will continue to see this kind of manipulation of votes, and disenfranchisement.

Obviously the Supreme Court is willing to make an extreme historic decision, with just a controversial 5-4 opinion. Can any one of us wonder, if this Court has the fifth vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, that it will do so? With this 5-4 decision, is it not evident that, with just one or two more right-wing Justices, the Court could and would take a sledgehammer to women.

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