November 2000 Archives

Every Vote Should Not Count

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I know I've discussed this before, and so has the entire known world, over and again. But there is just one thing that is killing me about this right now, so I gotta get it out.

Al Gore got on TV tonight, a bit over 24 hours after the Florida votes were certified, giving George Bush more than the 270 electors needed for the Presidency, and announced his reason for contesting the results in Florida. They can be, I think fairly, summed up as "every vote should count." This is something no one believes, not even Gore himself. Yet it is the basis for his claims, and a statement he made repeatedly.

What about votes cast before the polling booths opened, or after they closed? What about votes cast absentee, that didn't follow rules? What about multiple votes from single individuals? What about votes for multiple candidates where only one was allowed? What about votes by dead people and other non-citizens?

The answer to all of these is that we have laws that govern our elections, and the only votes that count are those that conform to those laws.

So here we are. By every legal authority governing these elections, all votes that conform to the laws have counted. That's it. It is over. There is not one vote, that we are aware of, that conforms to the law that has been excluded. Unfortunately, this is not good enough for Gore. His attempt to circumvent all three branches of the Florida government by extending deadlines even further is not dissimilar from trying to keep polling places open past the legal closing time. He does not care about legal votes. He cares about votes for himself, whether legal or not.

His contest cites four areas. Two of them have to do with the deadlines, which sets him in diametric opposition to the three branches of government, which have all supported passed deadlines. Another has to do with the standards for intent of the voter on unclear ballots, which further sets him in opposition to all state authorities -- legislative, executive, and judicial -- which have looked at the issue, saying the local officials have discretion to set reasonable standards. The other is not a really major issue, and only puts a 50-vote difference in play. Even if this one has merit, the rest have already been addressed. He has already lost.

I won't defend any particular rule set by Florida as being better than any other. What I will defend is the right of the Florida legislature to set the rules, and the responsibility of the Florida executive branch to uphold them. Yes, the rules are in many cases mostly arbitrary, but they are set, and they should be upheld. And while I don't think the Florida Supreme Court has any right to specify a deadline other than the statutory one, when that deadline, too, has come and gone, what next?

Al Gore is not fighting against George Bush, he is fighting against all three branches of the Florida government, who have already said that his claims have no basis. The legislature legislated, the executive executed, and the judicial judged. He is saying the deadlines set and enforced by these three branches is unfair, despite the fact that they were set and enacted by people all of whom were elected by the very citizens Al Gore is trying to represent. He says every vote should count, but for some reason is trying to go against the will of the people who elected these officials into office. It is hyopcrisy of the highest order.

I'm not really too worried. I cannot even conceive that the Florida Supreme Court that set a deadline would then say that this deadline is unfair. If it does, however, I hope the Florida legislature adheres to the legislation they were elected to create, and appoint the electors pledged to George Bush, as is their duty.

This IS The Will of the People

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I've heard people say that if Bush wins this 2000 election for President, it will be on a technicality (don't ask me who, you know who you are :-). The clear implication is that some of the votes, especially in Palm Beach County, Florida, were supposed to have gone to Gore, and did not, and so, rightfully, Gore should be President. That the man who had "less popular support" in Florida should win the state is based on a mere technicality.

But this is not a technicality. The fact that we only count legal votes and that we take the legal votes at face value is fundamental to the process. There is nothing "mere" about this. Without it, we have no viable election process.

There is, according to Salon, one case in 1998 where the Florida Supreme Court said that an election could be thrown out if there is reasonable doubt that the outcome reflects the will of the people. But how could you possibly have any reasonable indicator of the will of the people? We have only one such indicator: it is called an election.

Here I am irretrievably tempted to discuss sports, so please bear with me. In the sports world, we take sports so seriously that we do not take back outcomes post facto, ever, unless fraud or cheating is proven. In the 1999 American League Championship Series, Red Sox fans who care far more about their team winning the World Series than they do about anyone in particular winning the Presidential election nearly rioted when umpires blew calls that possibly cost them the game in favor of the Yankees. But there was one thing the fans did not do, amid their violent protests, invective-filled rants, and utter despair: they did not ask for a do-over. They did not ask for the outcome to be overturned, even though the umpires admitted they were wrong.

Some of you may think a sports analogy is silly here, and perhaps it is. But don't miss the point here that the will of the people is determined by the vote, just like the outcome of a game is determined by its score. Aside from fraud or cheating, to say that you can have reasonable doubt that the vote results reflect the will of the people is nonsensical. The results are the de facto will of the people.

Maybe there was a problem somewhere. Deal with it. Fix it for next time. You can't cry about problems post facto because it didn't go your way (and I assure you I would say the same thing if Gore were ahead and Bush were challenging the validity). This was the same ballot used before. They had almost as many ballots invalidated last time. They chose not to fix the problems. It happens, and our process hinges on the fact that we accept the outcome, with all of its possible and actual flaws, and that if there are flaws that need fixing, then we do our best to fix them for next time. The Democrats are taking us down a path that may lead to elections needing to happen a year ahead of time just so we can dispose of all the court challenges.

Why do we decide to live with an outcome we all know could have, and maybe should have, gone the other way? Because the cure is far worse than the disease. Because we don't want to live by court challenges and revotes. Because we don't want to question votes based on statistical data. We want to speak, and we want to be taken at our word. If the process failed this time, fix the process for next time instead of setting a precedent that none of us wants to live with.

This goes back to our culture's insistence that you can use statistics to determine the will of the people. That you can make decisions of governance based on poll data. That you can predetermine the outcome of an election with sampling. You can't. We saw evidence of this already on Tuesday. We saw it four years ago in New Hampshire, in the governor's race. We've seen it before, and we will see it again.

But this goes deeper than our society's obscene fascination with poll data. We are not merely trying to predict an outcome with something other than the final vote, we are actually questioning the validity of the final vote based solely on statistical data. We are actually attempting to decide outcomes based on poll data.

I recently ranted about the un-American souls leading the CPD who determined that only candidates with a certain percentage in national polls will be allowed into their debates. These cretins are literally allowing polls to determine a significant part of our political process. I've long feared that some day we would go so far as to use statistics instead of votes in elections. I never thought it would happen so soon, though.

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2000 listed from newest to oldest.

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