There it was, tucked away inconspicuously in the lower inside corner of page 14 in the first section of the Chicago Tribune for Friday May 11: "Ballot review yields Florida split decision." The story, by Martin Merzer, reported the results of a painstaking review of 176,000 Florida ballots rejected in the machine count on election day last November. In the study, conducted by The Miami Herald and several other Florida papers, USA Today, and Knight Ridder Newspapers, all the ballots were counted according to four different standards, ranging from more to less restrictive. "Bush would prevailed under the two most restrictive," Merzer reported: "His biggest margin would have been 407 votes under the standard most commonly accepted by states that use punch card ballots. It requires that two corners of a ballot's chad must be detached for the vote to count."

On the other hand, "Gore would have won under the two most permissive standards," Merzer wrote: "His biggest margin would have been 332 votes if dimpled chads, which bulge out but are still attached at all four corners, were considered valid votes."

So after all the furor it comes down to this thoroughly unsatisfactory resolution. The stolen election; the massive conspiracy to disenfranchise black voters; Gore's unshakable conviction, two weeks after the election, that he had won Florida by 20,000 votes or more: pure fantasy. How many of the commentators and partisans who waxed apocalyptic after Bush's victory will have the courage and the honesty to acknowledge now that they were simply wrong? (And would Republicans have behaved any better if Gore had won by several hundred votes?)

What to do in the face of such revelations? There has been a good deal of talk about the need ...

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