“The Election Crisis” screamed the New York Times full-page ad.
“The outcome of last Tuesday’s election,” began the ad, “is
threatening to produce a constitutional crisis. This threat must be
addressed with utmost solemnity and fairness to sustain the legitimacy
of our national political process.”
Who placed this ad? Why, the Emergency Committee of Concerned
Citizens 2000. Call them ECCC. ECCC continues, “Vice President Al Gore
has apparently won the popular vote for President. Voting irregularities
in Palm Beach County, and elsewhere in Florida, suggest that as many as
19,000 Gore votes may have been nullified. … In short, there is good
reason to believe that Vice President Gore has been elected President by
a clear constitutional majority of the popular vote and the Electoral
College.” A bit presumptuous, given the uncertain state of the election.
But what to do, what to do? “We therefore,” says ECCC, “call upon the
Florida Election Commission to explore every option, including
scheduling and supervising new elections in Palm Beach County, as soon
as possible. Nothing less, we believe, can preserve the faith of the
people upon which our entire political system rests.” Ah-h-h, we get to
the punch line. New elections.
Never mind that an election consists of a snapshot in time, a moment
that a new election is incapable of duplicating. What about the Ralph
Nader voters? Given that Nader voters stand accused of “giving” the
election to Bush, how many Nader voters would vote the same way? And
imagine the campaigning, money and attention rained on Palm Beach County
in the event of a new election.
No mistake. The Gore-Bush 2000 presidential election outcome faces
uncertainty and second-guessing. But a “crisis” means a rudderless
situation, where no rules exist.
America possesses a Constitution that outlines procedures, however
cumbersome, to follow. The Electoral College meets, and the vice
president announces the winner. While scholars and pundits debate the
specifics, the Founding Fathers designed a course that, in the most
extreme circumstances, leads to the Supreme Court. Not exactly a banana
Over 100 million Americans voted in this last contest. We now eagerly
watch the developments in Florida. But does the typical American
consider this a crisis? The latest polls find Americans intently
watching the election developments, but few seem genuinely concerned. A
recent poll showed only 15 percent consider the country in a “crisis,”
many of them probably falling for the ECCC/media-driven hype. Most call
this razor-close election, and the resulting fall-out, simply something
that happens from time to time.
None of this, of course, concerns our friends at the ECCC. And just
who is the ECCC? The bottom of the ad gives a “partial list; list in
formation,” including Robert De Niro, Bianca Jagger (can she vote?),
Paul Newman, Rosie O’Donnell, Gloria Steinem, and Joanne Woodward. Your
basic list of down-the-middle, non-partisan, impartial, good-government
The ECCC calls for new elections, “To preserve the dignity and
legitimacy of American democracy, it is essential to remove any hint of
inaccuracy in the final result.”
To “preserve” the dignity? What dignity? First the networks declare
Florida for Gore, even though polls remained open in the western part of
that state, to say nothing of much of the rest of the country. Then, no,
Florida goes back into the undecided column, after which the networks
place it in the Bush column.
But no, again, the networks now declare Florida too close to call. So
tight remains the race that some Florida voters claim they mistakenly
voted for Pat Buchanan while using the allegedly confusing “butterfly”
ballot. And in Palm Beach County, a machine kicked out 19,000 ballots,
sparking demands for a “manual recount” to determine the intent of
voters with rejected ballots.
But how to determine the voters’ intent? Well, you examine the chad,
a piece of paper the voter punched out. If the “chad” did not fall, or
is swinging, or pregnant, or dimpled, then that chad may or may not be
counted. Kind of.
Never mind that the official sample ballot for Florida contains a
page marked “Voting Instructions.” It clearly says, “Note: If you make a
mistake return your ballot card and obtain another.” And in bold,
capital letters, set in a large typeface, this sample ballot says,
“AFTER VOTING, CHECK YOUR BALLOT CARD TO BE SURE YOUR VOTING SELECTIONS
ARE CLEARLY AND CLEANLY PUNCHED AND THERE ARE NO CHIPS LEFT HANGING ON
THE BACK OF THE CARD.”
Let’s simplify. The state of Florida held an election. Voters
received instructions. A machine — possessing no emotions, no
partisanship — counted the votes. The machine recounted the votes. If
the machine kicked out the ballot, the ballot shouldn’t get counted.
Something that happens at every election. It’s that simple.
So relax, ECCC. The state will endure. Chad happens.