Archive for Saturday, December 16, 2000

Continued ballot recounts in Florida won’t benefit U.S.

December 16, 2000

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Several newspapers, news services and groups such as the NAACP, Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH organization and the Washington-based Judicial Watch plan to launch a recount of all or part of Florida's presidential election ballots.

It is not known whether this will turn out to be a collaborative effort or whether each party will want to conduct its own count. Florida state law acknowledges votes are public documents open to review, but only election officials may handle the ballots.

After 20-some odd days of intense scrutiny of the various types of ballots and different standards used to determine whether a ballot should or should not be counted, Florida officials were unable to come up with a ballot count acceptable to all parties and one that would be looked upon as accurate and fair.

How in the world do the newspapers and news organizations hope to arrive at an accurate count? With groups such as the NAACP, there could be a much more subjective count.

First, in light of the Florida law stating that only election officials can handle the ballots, election board members will be paid to hold up each ballot so reporters can make their own determination of whether a chad is hanging by one, two, three or four strands, whether the ballot has a "dimpled" or "pregnant" chad, and to note whether any attempt was made to vote for either Al Gore or George W. Bush.

Is there any reason to believe the news people will be better able to determine the intentions of voters than those serving on the various election boards?

Supposedly, the news people are not going to be as biased as some of those who served on the three-member voting boards and, therefore, will be better able to compile an accurate count.

This is highly debatable. Again, how can the news people do any better job in trying to sense or divine the intent of voters? Most of the ballots they will review will have some kind of questionable mark or no mark at all.

Do they intend to look at all the Florida ballots, only those that were counted by certain types of automated scanning devices, or only those cast in precincts with certain voter profiles?

The bigger question, however, is what are these recount people hoping to accomplish? What will another questionable recount contribute? Based on the best efforts of election board officials throughout Florida, as well as the voter counts tallied by automatic equipment, Bush won a very narrow victory over Gore.

It is understandable that many would have liked a clear-cut, accurate voter count handing the presidency to either Bush or Gore, but this wasn't the case.

True, Bush will be entering the White House with some claiming he "stole" the Florida election, that his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush exerted pressure to give his brother the win, that many voters were prohibited from voting and that Florida courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, engaged in political decision-making rather than basing their decisions on evidence and the law.

Regardless, the vote was certified and George Bush will be this nation's 43rd president.

It would be helpful if a top-flight panel could study the Florida election, and perhaps elections in other states and make recommendations on how to avoid similar vote problems in future elections.

But what good does it do to keep alive the argument over whether Bush or Gore should be in the White House? Hasn't there been enough bitterness, charges of illegal, unethical actions, suggestions that the Florida courts and the U.S. Supreme Court are unfair and not worthy of public trust and confidence, and that the wrong man will be sitting in the Oval Office.

Again, it would have been far better to have a clear, undisputed winner in the 2000 Florida election, but this never will be. Like it or not Bush will be this country's president for the next four years.

Use the Florida situation to improve future ballot-counting, but don't do something that may help sustain arguments and allegations of an unfair, corrupt election.

Unless the country wants four years of gridlock, bitter arguments, finger-pointing and hatred, the sooner the Florida election is put behind us, the better.

Post-election and post-inauguration recounts could make headlines and provide ammunition for self-serving individuals, but they will not help this nation. Of course, this could be the reason some people want recounts. They don't want a healing process and a positive environment because they thrive on discontent.

Hopefully, any reflection on the Florida vote will be used to better the voting process in future years rather than to serve as a forum to sow hate and distrust.

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