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So much for the will of the people

Posted By Linda Bowles On 11/14/2000 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

While many Americans were having anxiety attacks, losing sleep, and
fighting off depression as they watched the entire country seriously
divided and teetering on the cusp of a constitutional crisis, there was
little comfort to be had in watching television tapes of Al Gore and
friends happily frolicking in a game of tag football and taking
fun-filled jogs through the countryside.

The situation is that George W. Bush won the original vote in Florida
and won a recount of the same vote. The Gore team cried “foul” and laid
down the claim that the “butterfly” ballot used in several counties,
including heavily Democratic Palm Beach County, was “illegal.”

The Gore camp dispatched chartered aircraft crammed with lawyers,
spin artists, and political operatives to mount a campaign to discredit
the presidential election process in Florida and undermine the election
results. They contended that this illegal ballot so confused voters that
thousands of them either invalidated their ballot by voting for two
candidates for president, mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan rather than
Gore, or, being seriously befuddled, did not vote for any presidential
candidate.

Jesse Jackson appeared on the scene to incite protests with
accusations that minority voters had been “intimidated.” The National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as is their wont,
quickly interjected race into the dispute. Within days, nine lawsuits
were filed, charging election officials and others with the violation of
civil rights. Letters were dispatched to Attorney General Janet Reno
asking for her intervention.

Suddenly and mysteriously, hundreds of black students from Florida
A&M college were engaged in a sit-in at the state capitol in
Tallahassee. Rent-a-mobs filled the streets with banners proclaiming “No
Justice, No Peace.”

In the midst of all this, William Daley, Gore’s campaign chairman,
said that since Gore had won the national popular vote, he “should be
awarded a victory” to express “the will of the people.” He neglected to
mention that his suggestion is unconstitutional, and he also neglected
to mention that over 2 million absentee ballots have not yet been
counted.

The contested “butterfly” ballot is widely used. For example, it is
the kind of ballot William Daley himself uses when he votes in Chicago
(Cook County, Ill.) where, in this election cycle, 120,000 ballots were
thrown out. Apparently the “butterfly” ballot is a problem for Democrats
only when it yields a Republican victory.

The legal ballot used in Palm Beach County was designed by an elected
Democrat official. Before the election, it was reviewed and approved by
both political parties, published in newspapers, and mailed to all
registered voters in a sample ballot. And new ballots were available to
voters who complained of making mistakes.

At the request of the Gore team, hand-counts of individual ballots
were conducted in several heavily Democratic counties, including Palm
Beach. This opened the process to subjective interpretation and
second-guessing of what the Florida legal code calls “the intent of the
voter.” Incredibly and ominously, one-quarter way into the first
hand-count in Palm Beach, the standard was changed for judging whether
or not a ballot was valid. If human biases manifest themselves in the
count in a heavily Democratic county, they are more likely to be
Democrat biases.

In heavily Republican Duval County, there were 26,000 ballots which
were discarded and uncounted because of voter error in filling them out.
If the will of the people is at stake, why should not those ballots be
subjected to individual scrutiny and interpretation? And if machine
errors and voter confusion are indicated in Palm Beach County and Duval
County, why not in all the other counties in Florida, and for that
matter, all the other counties in the United States, including, of
course, areas notorious for election fraud and mischief, including
Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Los Angeles?

What is the rationale for not pursuing the most perfect expression of
the “will of the people”? And where does it end? Apparently, it need
never end. In a press conference on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2000, former
Secretary of State Warren Christopher signaled that the Gore team would
not concede the election, even if Gore was still losing after all vote
counting was concluded and certified.

Alas, that is the dangerous and slippery slope that Al “no
controlling legal authority” Gore has put us on. In Florida he has
designed a boilerplate of how a defeated and sore-loser candidate
anywhere in America, for offices high or low, can effectively undermine
and disrupt elections, and possibly overturn them.

So much for the will of the people.


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