Election 2000: What's to learn?

When I was teenager, I wanted to wear my hair longer and my parents wanted me to have a very short crew cut. During these arguments I repeated the teenage anthem, "That's not fair". They would repeat the Parents stock reply, "Too bad, life's not fair". I eventually won that argument, but it took me several years of persistent confrontation. True, life may not be fair, but at 55 I feel, just as I did at 14, that life should be fair and that we must always persistently confront those that would not be fair.

But confrontation often must take a form other than mere verbal or written exchange, for arguing with someone whose goal is something other than fairness is nothing more than an exercise in futility. In this, or any election, to argue whether every vote should be counted and recounted until the outcome is known is one such futility.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC call the aftermath of this election the best of Machiavellian politics played out in the openness of American society. I, on the other hand, am confronted and moved by images of:

  • Jewish voters openly weeping upon learning that they had mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan rather than Joe Lieberman.

  • A prominent Georgia congressman referring to Jewish and black voters of Palm Beach County, Florida, as stupid and ignorant and not worthy of having their votes counted.

  • Protesting old ladies being pushed, bullied, and shouted down by angry "white males".

  • Angry "white males" storming and disrupting election offices in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

  • The lone female election official in Miami-Dade County looking more like a "battered wife" than a public servant.

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  • The hypocrisy of campaign speeches and actions in the post election.

Just what would have been fair in the Florida election given the facts of third party candidates and known results after the fact? That's really easy. Simply hand count "all" the votes whether cast by machine, paper, or flawed absentee ballots with voter intent in mind as provided by Florida law. Why didn't it happen? Because Republican leaders did not want to count all the votes. A close study of the voting statistics county by county and precinct by precinct shows that Al Gore was the likely winner by 10's of thousands of votes. Should all votes have been counted? Of course -- it would have been fair.

In this election, fairness slipped from our grasp and in its place we were bombarded by partisan dribble served up to us predictably by politicians, but more disturbingly by newscasters, clearly cheering for one side or the other. Clearly, from the dust that settles, some changes need to be made before 2002 and 2004.

  1. Voters should pay attention to who they are electing as their local voting official. Often this race goes unnoticed and the incumbent is elected year after year regardless of age and competency. This may be the single most important vote a citizen casts.

  2. The current electoral college system is unfair but so is a direct vote unfair and impractical. A fair approach would be to revise the electoral college to elect 2 members for each state in a "winner take all" as we currently do, but then also elect one member for each congressional district based on the candidate preferred in that district so that electors are split in a state according to the vote.

  3. The Federal Election Commission should research and decide on a nationwide uniform voting system. Congress should then create a "no strings attached" grant to allow the states and counties to optionally purchase the uniform system. This would cost less than one B-1 bomber. Modern and efficient election equipment is a non-luxury we certainly deserve.

  4. Citizens should compel their states to write or rewrite their election laws so they are clear, concise, and not contradictory. The election statutes in Florida are not unusual, for most of the Florida statues and those of many other states are ambiguous, contradictory, and enforced on the whim of the executive branch of government.

  5. Violations of election laws and conflict of interests should be regularly investigated and punished with the severity they deserve, for these violations are truly "crimes against the people".

  6. National election day should be a national holiday with picnics, brass bands, and people proudly sporting "I voted" stickers. Surely this has more merit than the historically flawed "Columbus Day" and I'm sure the honorees of "Presidents Day" would approve.

Many would call the American democratic system the best in the world and perhaps that is so, but in the end it still remains flawed and unfair. We can do better. Maybe Robert Kennedy's moving statement best speaks to what our future must be.

"Some men see things as they are and say why?
I dream things that never were and say why not?"

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of InnerSelf.com with his wife Marie T Russell. InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as InnerSelf.com. Please support our work.

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