The Last Political Article

In the last couple weeks, I put up two political articles; one humorous, one serious.

Two articles, one email. Almost zilch response. Which is perfectly fine, after all, this is, not

The last article had me saying a few things that proved out to be dead wrong. I thought about writing an article about that, but I thought
that would be another article you didn’t want to see, so I just pulled the stuff to make room for new stuff on the front page.

Well, I got one note from someone who considered this something pretty low-down and sneaky and a test of character that I failed.

So just to show that this isn’t so, here’s the article and let’s see how I did.

“This election is sooooooooooooo close.”

I said it wasn’t. Actually, I implied about a 3 point, though narrowing, Bush lead.


What happened?

Voter turnout.

You don’t have to, or have any big moral obligation to vote in America, and it’s tricky to figure out how actually is going to.

On the whole, Democrats and independents are less likely to vote in a low-turnout election than Republicans. If the turnout
is higher than expected (which was the case here), that tends to favor Democrats, and this is what happened.

For instance, in New York State, the Gore margin of victory (which was predicted to be big, anyway) was a good deal higher than expected because of this.

Most polls have consistent biases

The election didn’t disprove that point.

The media always wants a contest

I thought I heard some advertisement for a new amusement ride, then looked up and saw it was Tom Brokaw talking about the Presidential election. So much for that. 🙂

However, now we’re seeing news reports about “chaos” and “crisis.” There is no chaos or crisis in America. We have a few lawyers, politicians and dimwits getting hysterical. When you hear about millions of people demonstrating, then something serious is going on. Not until then.

Sure, people don’t know for sure who the President is going to be two-and-a-half months from now. But unless you have to order a gown for the Inaugural Ball, this is not exactly panic time.

The Electoral College junkies come out of the woodwork

That sure is happening, and while we are faced with the possibility that someone will win the Electoral College with fewer votes than someone else; my point about that was that this was a possibility only in an extremely close election, which this turned out to be.

At most, the difference between the two is about 2/10 of one percent of the vote, and it’s likely after absentee ballots are counted throughout the nation, that will shrink and could even possibly go slightly the other way.

Nader’s Going to Hand the Presidency Over to Bush!

Looks like I won most of the battles but lost the war on that one.

I said Nader’s percentages would collapse; they did drop from 5% to 3%.

In most cases, Al Gore won despite the Nader vote (he did in Michigan, for instance).

I still think it would be incorrect to just clump the Nader vote together with the Gore vote, then compare it to the Bush vote.

There were only a few states where the Nader vote plus the Gore vote exceeded the Bush vote in a state Bush won.

However, it turned out that the
margins were so close in those states that even if less than half the Nader votes had voted for Gore and the rest stayed home, it still would have won Gore the states.
And since Florida is one of those states (with a Nader vote at least fifty times the margin of victory); you’d have to be an idiot to argue that Nader’s presence didn’t cost him the state (presuming Bush wins it) and therefore the election.


Since I’m writing this anyway, might as well make a few observations here.

A Republican Plot in a Democratic district?

All these ballot problems are not a Republican plot. The person who approved the design of the ballot is a long-time Democrat. She changed the ballot so the print could be made bigger to make it easier for senior citizens to read.

That type of ballot has been used elsewhere. The Gore campaign chairman complaining so much about the ballot got elected mayor of Chicago using the same type ballot.

That 19,000 spoiled ballots you’ve heard about isn’t quite what it’s being made to sound like. It’s not that 19,000 people lost the chance to vote. That 19,000 ballots include all the people who made a mistake and then asked for a new ballot, which they got and then
voted properly with.

Now I don’t know how many of the 19,000 ballots were people who just got a new ballot, and how many were people who submitted a vote for two people, but I’m sure we’ll eventually find that out.

That 19,000 figure (out of about a half million cast, and BTW, over 60% of the votes cast in Palm Beach were for Al Gore) probably does indicate there was a decent degree of confusion about the process.

Whatever the real number is, keep in mind that each of those voters:

1) Made a mistake

2) Were too embarrassed to admit making that mistake to ask for help, or didn’t know that they could ask for help and

3) Submitted a ballot most knew and all should have known would be invalid.

I don’t doubt some people who meant to vote for Al Gore ended up voting for Pat Buchanan. However, it looks like there’s even more people down there that don’t even know what they did; 5,000 people said they thought they had voted for Buchanan by mistake, and he only got 3,000 votes.

However, it probably was more like half that three thousand.

Imperfect Does Not Mean Illegal

No doubt in my mind that if we had a perfect election in Florida, Al Gore would have gotten a few thousand more votes in Florida.

There’s just as little doubt in my mind that we’d find the same sort of thing in every single state in the country.

Now if we’re going to be fair in Florida and go for a perfect world, why just in Florida? Why not everywhere else? If it’s fair in Florida, it’s just as fair anyplace else.

The reality is we don’t live in a perfect world. People make mistakes. You do your best to minimize them, but you can’t eliminate them.

The reality is you can’t get a perfect vote with an imperfect voting mechanism. Voters, electoral workers, all of them make mistakes, all over the place.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to do anything. No problem with having a recount in a very close election, in fact, that’s a good idea.

No problem with challenging in court the most egregious problems you find in any particular election. If you can get that done in a few weeks, no harm done.

The potential problem is dragging this out to the point where you do provoke a potential crisis. I’ll describe just one.

You Can Cut Class At The Electoral College

Believe it or not, you don’t have to have all the electors voting in the Electoral College to have a valid election. Matter of fact, we’ve elected a President with almost a quarter of them missing.

The first one, as a matter of fact. There were supposed to be 91 electoral votes in the first Presidential election. Only 69 voted (all for George W., Washington, that is).

What happened to the rest of them?

Back then, state legislators decided whom to vote for. The legislature in New York couldn’t make up its mind, so it didn’t send anybody.

North Carolina and Rhode Island not only hadn’t made up their minds about George, they hadn’t even made up their minds about being part of the United States yet, so they couldn’t vote.

Two elector guys from Virginia and two from Maryland just didn’t bother.

See, we had voter apathy even back then!

There were also a few more embarrassments along the way in our first elections, so the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution fixed things up to how we run things today. To take care of guys not showing up, there’s a little provision that says that a majority of electoral votes cast (not total) elects a President.

Now if Florida gets prevented by some court orders to send its electors, if all the other states stay as they are (and they might not), Al Gore would get a slight majority of those present, and thus become President.

Not saying that’s going to happen. Not saying the Gore folks are aiming for that to happen. Not even saying that even if that’s what they are aiming for, that’s what they would get, there are other possibilities.

But drag this on for more than a month, and now you can start seriously talking about real problems, not media-induced ones.

The Real Problem

Running an election perfectly is a problem. No matter what you do, it will always be a problem. Do you know why?

The people who run them don’t do it very often.

If you only showed up at your job once or twice a year, do you think you’d do it as well as you’d do doing it five days a week? Of course not.

You can’t run an election every day, so there’s not much you can do about that.

If you’re a government, and you have to choose between spending money on something you do every day, or something you do twice a year at most, some years maybe not at all, where does the money usually go?

Even if you spend more money, you still have people around, and when you have people, you have problems.

Cast every vote using a computer, and instead of worrying about people making mistakes counting or losing votes or making lousy ballots, you worry about computer hackers.

We can do better. We’ll never be perfect. And “perfect” doesn’t mean anything that leaves your guy winning. That’s what “hypocrisy” means.

Why Aren’t We All Dead?

If you’re a Democrat, and you think just about anything would justify keeping George W. Bush out of the White House, let me ask you this:

In the last twenty years, Republicans have been President twelve of them. The country is still here. Not a single group of people started dropping like
flies because a Republican was President.

If you’re a Republican, and you think just about anything would justify keeping Al Gore out of the White House, let me ask you this:

For the last eight years, we’ve had a Democrat in the White House. America is still here. People weren’t dying left and right because Bill Clinton lived on Pennsylvania Avenue.

No matter who wins, we will survive. Really.

Email Ed

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