Is anyone out there as completely flabbergasted as I am by the charge
out of Palm Beach County, Fla., that the presidential ballot was too
confusing to figure out?

That claim is, without exaggeration, the biggest load of boneheaded,
dimwitted tripe I’ve been asked to swallow since my 6th grade teacher
tried to convince me the U.S. didn’t really lose the Vietnam War.

Reportedly, the so-called butterfly ballot — a two-page affair with
arrows pointing directly to the checkbox for each candidate — flummoxed
some voters who supposedly miscast their vote for Buchanan instead of
Gore. Some people, flexing their conspiracy muscles, even called the
ballot “deceptive,” as if it were calculated to skew the vote Bushward.

Never mind that the Democratic Party, given review copies of the Palm
Beach ballot, never lodged any complaints about the design before the
election. Never mind that the ballot was prepublished for general
review in newspapers before the election. Never mind that the elections
supervisor in Palm Beach County who designed the ballot is a Democrat
and laid out it the way she did for greater readability for the elderly.

Forget all of that. Gore lost, so the ballot’s flawed. Simple.

The Palm Beach County, Fla., ballot that supposedly threw a
shoe in the spokes of the Gore campaign. Notice right where those
arrows point? This isn’t exactly a jigsaw puzzle.

Normally, of course, an arrow is supposed to designate direction —
like, for instance, if you want to vote for Al Gore, follow the arrow to
the his checkbox, not Pat Buchanan’s. This is something most of us
learned well before preschool. If voters can’t figure that out, they
shouldn’t be allowed to drive to the polls, let alone vote. After all,
what do they do with all those “One Way Street” signs, just turn the
opposite direction?

Besides, when you’re voting for the president of the United States, don’t you double check what you’re doing? Just to make sure.
It’s only prudent, after all. Wouldn’t want to boost the bad guy, right?

As a District Court of Appeals ruled in a similar 1974 case of voter confusion, the Constitution presupposes a person not only
has the “ability to read” but also enough “intelligence to indicate his choice with the degree of care commensurate with the
solemnity of the occasion.” Maybe the foundering fathers were hoping for too much, but you’d think people would put more care into
picking a president than picking a cantaloupe.

Thankfully, unless inebriated, most voters do not randomly wander into the polls and rattle off their picks like great surf sites
at the end of a Beach Boys tune. They exercise the proper care and deliberation. So, unless Tuesday’s voters were either
completely careless, absentminded or stupid, this ballot should have been cake. I certainly wouldn’t confess to being confused by
it; it’d be like admitting to flunking junior high. (Not to say that Gore was not counting on the dummy vote; some strategy is
better than none, right?)

What’s even funnier, however, is that both Gore campaign manager William Daley and Al groupie Jesse Jackson — high-decibel dudes
in the anti-Bush screech department — successfully voted on similar butterfly ballots in Cook County, Ill. If these ballots are so
difficult and terrible, why aren’t Daley and Jackson whining about their own counties?

Simple. The presidency doesn’t hang on Cook County. It hangs on
Palm Beach County, and the Democrats will play any wildcard in the deck
to win this pot — even a completely disingenuous one.

When Bush kept bantering about it being time for change in
Washington, this is exactly why. Gore is just a poor sport looking for
anything at all — however ridiculous — to claim victory. Sure it’s a
close call, but Bush did win the Sunshine State. And where the
sun don’t shine is precisely where the Dems should put their bogus
ballot claims and other iffy legal challenges.

But, then again, no one ever claimed that Al Gore was inordinately
well mannered or gracious. It’s a safe bet he’ll stretch this thing
till it snaps.

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