All Counties Are Equal*
(*Some Are Just More Equal Than Others)
As we have all been distressed to learn during this post-election debacle, the letter of the law is superior to the spirit of the law, and to the voting rights of citizens. The Supreme Court, in its ruling to vacate the Florida Supreme Court decision regarding the certification of manual counts, made this clear. In fact, the US Supremes made a point of criticizing the Florida Supremes for even mentioning the Florida Constitution's position on the franchise. NEXT: PUTTING LOONEY RIGHT ON THE COUCH
"The vote," for most of us, is our only avenue for participation in self-government. Since most of us lack the financial resources to pony up a $1,000 or $5,000 contribution to the candidate or party of our choice, our vote is our only voice. Without the vote, most of us are just along for the ride, spectators to democracy, but uninvolved in the action.
In several counties, many voters either committed unintentional errors on their ballots, or voted on punch card machines, which often create voter error where none existed. For me, this news story had particular significance. Why? Because I voted on a punch card this election. Personally, I was unaware that I needed to carefully examine my ballot for chads. No instructions appeared on my ballot or voting book informing me that I needed to take this extra action. Now, it is important for you to realize that I am politically active. Also, I am not "retarded." I make this point, because two very popular signs for right-wing demonstrators have been, "NO RE-VOTES FOR RETARDS" and "I'M SO STUPID I VOTED FOR BUCHANAN."
What these posters imply is, that for a ballot to remain unread by a counting machine, either no vote was cast, or the voter was too stupid to cast a proper vote. Not true. In the early days of the post-election period, CNN did a piece on punch card voting machines. The reporter demonstrated how voters use the stylus to punch their ballots. Upon removing the ballot from the slot, the reporter was surprised to see that he had left "hanging chads."
Well, the Bush campaign focused its considerable resources on opposing any manual count of these ballots. That, and stalling the legal process in every manner possible. They succeeded. The Florida Supreme Court may decide that manual counts should go forward, but time is so limited, that this kind of ruling may be moot. The "under votes" may not be counted until after the election process is complete.
Which brings us to Seminole and Martin Counties. Here, the voters in question also committed error. They neglected to provide their voter ID numbers on the required requests for absentee ballots. Here, however, the voters' errors were corrected by Republican operatives. The equivalent in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties would have been democratic operatives in the polling place or counting area, pulling hanging and dimpled chads off of completed ballots. This, of course, never happened.
Taken alone, the action of the GOP operatives constitute tampering; taken in combination with the other facts of the cases (in Seminole, the GOP operatives were left unsupervised with blank absentee ballots and computers containing confidential voter databases; in Martin, the operatives actually took possession of the requests and removed them from the Elections Office), this constitutes a felony. But here, the Bush campaign has changed their earlier position. Now, much as the Gore campaign has been arguing all along, the Bush lawyers are asserting the primacy of voting rights and the franchise, and downplaying the role of the law. The law in Florida, as we all know, is quite strict regarding the completion and submission of absentee ballot requests. Unlike the issue of "chads," which is not mentioned at all in Florida's election laws, this type of tampering is directly addressed. Unlike Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, where no wrongdoing or illegal behavior occurred, in Seminole and Martin, the Bush campaign has stipulated that it did.
But that's not the only difference between those counties and Seminole and Martin. The real difference is that Al Gore is not a party in the action to disallow absentee ballots in Martin and Seminole, but the Bush campaign has been a party to fighting the counting of under votes in every county Al Gore has requested. Though it may cost him the election, Al Gore has maintained a consistent position. George W. Bush hasn't bothered. All Hail President Hypocrite.