Too much fun to leave on the cutting-room floor, but it’s not all nonsense either. MSNBC anchor Joy Reid started a Twitter storm over her nonsensical claim that the data-analytics site FiveThirtyEight named itself after the eventual margin in Florida’s disputed 2000 election result.
Shouldn’t the number 538 ring another bell for those with high-profile political-analyst jobs with major media outlets?
Here's the thing: the reason there's a thing called @FiveThirtyEight is because 538 was the margin in FL when the Republican SCOTUS reversed the 2000 election during a recount, making Dubya the president. That's the kind of margin where races can flip. That's not what's up now.
— Joy-Ann Pro-Democracy & Masks Reid 😷 (@JoyAnnReid) November 10, 2020
This isn’t accurate. The margin in Florida was 537 votes (538 is the number of electoral college voters); the SCOTUS didn’t reverse the 2000 election (Bush always led in every count). https://t.co/oVREnnu6nT
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) November 10, 2020
Shouldn’t a national-outlet analyst/host also know that the Supreme Court didn’t reverse anything?
This is factually inaccurate. 538 is the number of votes in the electoral college, not the FL margin. And, the Supreme Court never reversed anything — GWB was ahead every single day of the Florida recount. https://t.co/ixLCPxnEGZ
— Ron Nehring (@RonNehring) November 10, 2020
The Supreme Court stopped the recount over a dispute about its scope. The Gore campaign wanted the recount to take place only in specific counties, while the Bush campaign wanted it done state-wide. Team Bush also challenged the protocols of the recounts that were being conducted at the time. They won a 7-2 decision from the court on that point, deciding that the varying standards being applied violated the Equal Protection Clause. The court then split 5-4 in favor of ending recounts altogether and certifying the election on the results already in hand rather than order a full statewide recount on a single standard. To do so would have put the slate of electors at risk of missing the “safe harbor” deadline for the Electoral College:
Seven Justices of the Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy. See post, at 6 (Souter, J., dissenting); post, at 2, 15 (Breyer, J., dissenting). The only disagreement is as to the remedy. Because the Florida Supreme Court has said that the Florida Legislature intended to obtain the safe-harbor benefits of 3 U.S.C. § 5 Justice Breyer’s proposed remedy–remanding to the Florida Supreme Court for its ordering of a constitutionally proper contest until December 18-contemplates action in violation of the Florida election code, and hence could not be part of an “appropriate” order authorized by Fla. Stat. §102.168(8) (2000).
None are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution’s design to leave the selection of the President to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere. When contending parties invoke the process of the courts, however, it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront.
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
While this opinion is widely reviled for its impact on the election, a more careful read of it should restore confidence in the court — and put the blame on Florida and its creaky voting system and shifting standards.
In fairness, though, Reid was correct in one point: the effective scope of recounts. They work when gaps are in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands. However, they’re also relatively easy to accomplish and can be finished well before the safe-harbor deadlines, as long as they use one standard applied in all instances and start immediately. If campaigns want to foot the bill for recounts, they can waste the money on them … just like Jill Stein did in 2016. Maybe Reid should have just stuck to the point, rather than raise old and debunked conspiracy theories and “fake news” to make her argument.
So where did FiveThirtyEight derive its name? Duh: