According to local reports, the two-term Republican was confused by the instructions on his electronic voting machine and mistakenly cast a ballot he intended to discard.
Witnesses say Bush argued with poll workers for several minutes afterwards in a effort to redo his vote, but in accordance with state law they ultimately denied his request.
The embarrassing incident may have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for a local newspaper reporter who happened to be voting in the next booth. Suzanna Everett, a politics correspondent for the Waco Times witnessed the entire ordeal and crafted a cunning scheme to make it public.
Left On Red
Barred by ethics rules from using knowledge gained within a polling station, Everett waited for Bush to leave the facility and ambushed him with a trick question designed to fool him into revealing the news himself:
“Mr. President Fox News is reporting that you’ve accidentally voted for Barack Obama. Would you care to comment?”
Thinking that his mistake had already been found out, Bush sought to minimize the damage:
“Yes unfortunately because of the incompetence of the folks who designed the ballot, my vote counted for the other guy,” Bush responded. He then attempted to explain exactly how the mishap occurred:
“First of all, everything was very mismaladjusted on the screen. You shouldn’t put the senators and the congress people and the presidents all jumbled together like that. It’s too crowded. Just confuses folks.”
Bush then explained that after marking the wrong candidate, he sought to correct his error by clicking the red “Cast Ballot” button, thinking that it was designed to ‘cast away’ the ballot and bring up a fresh one:
“Usually red means stop and green means go. I thought I was stopping”
A New Legacy
Bush is no stranger to election day controversy, having been pushed into office himself by the Florida fiasco of 2000. In that election hundreds of votes intended for Democratic rivalAl Gore went to protest candidate Pat Buchanan instead due to poor ballot design.
In an official statement released shortly after the event, former President Bush said his experiences today have inspired him to make electoral reform the signature cause of his post-presidency:
“Laura and I will be dedicating the next few years to fixing our electoral system. Every American deserves a clear, simple ballot when they go to the polling place.”
However, the system Bush used has been deployed successfully around the country with little incident. A spokesperson for the company that manufactures the machines says they stand by their product:
“Until today we have never had a single instance of someone confusing the “cast ballot” button for a “cast away ballot” button. This is a problem unique to Mr. Bush, and we have no plans to change our machines.