The Presidential Election hinges on the results in Florida. The Florida results depend on three things as of this afternoon (Friday 11/10/00).
1) The results of the recount, which AP reports as giving Bush a 327 vote lead.
2) 2,000-3,000 outstanding absentee ballots, which won't be final until November 17.
3) 19,000 double-punched ballots in Palm Beach County. This represents 4.2% of the total ballots cast in that county for President and more than 58 times the 327 vote lead Bush currently holds. If these 19,000 ballots represent voters who were trying to vote for Gore, then Gore truly won Florida. Any recount has to include consideration of these ballots. They should be studied to see which candidates were voted. Press reports are tha t all or most of these were voted for Gore and Buchanan. I'll wager that this is not due to people who couldn't make up their minds between these two. If these ballots show people voting a straight Democratic ticket then it is pretty safe to say that th ey intended to vote for Gore. That intention should be honored. Even if that applies to only a small number of these ballots, it is more than enough to swing the election to Gore.
Voters have been reporting since Tuesday morning that they were worried th at they had punched their ballot incorrectly in trying to vote for Gore and voted for Buchanan instead. These reports were coming in long before anybody could have guessed how close the election would be. Many people have come forward to report that the y made this mistake. A large number of ballots marked for both of these candidates suggests that people started to punch the wrong hole and then corrected themselves. Unfortunately they ended up with both holes punched. It is very difficult to tell with a punch card ballot whether you voted correctly since the candidates names do not appear on the ballot itself, only on the machine.
The question is, what is to be done?
1) The election can be re-voted in the area affected by the ballot problems. This opens up the campaign again as both sides flood the area with campaign ads and workers to try to influence the outcome. I feel sorry for the people of Palm Beach. It could be a real mess. Besides, would only voters who voted last Tuesday be eligible or could non-voters decide that they want to vote now too? It seems unfair to let them vote again and not the rest of us. Maybe Nader voters would change their minds, knowing the closeness of the election. Maybe Buchanan voters would. No, the election happened we can't redo it.
2) The double-punched ballots can remain disqualified. After all, that is the normal procedure. That seems to be the Bush Campaign's position. Voters should have exercised more care in voting. If they thought they voted wro ng, then they should have requested a new ballot. Indeed, second guessing the intentions of voters is dangerous.
This option will result in Bush's victory. Many Gore Supporters will feel cheated by a deceptive ballot and some will believe that the elec tion was stolen. Bush will serve his term under a cloud. But he will have majorities in both the House and Senate.
3) Some or all of these ballots can be accepted as Gore votes. It seems certain to me that this was the intention of the people who cas t those ballots. Since only a small percentage of these ballots would make Gore President, It is safe to assume that a majority of the voters voted for Gore. Surely the will of the voters should be recognized.
Bush supporters may feel that the election was stolen away by highly suspect tampering with the ballots. Gore will serve out his term under a cloud. He will also face a Republican Congressional majority.
However, this election showed one thing. The country is incredibly evenly split between D emocrats and Republicans. It would be a fair reflection of this situation to have a Democrat as President and a Republican congress. After all, The Democrats won the popular vote for President by a hair and the Republicans won Congress by a hair. The E lectoral College is evenly split.
I believe that the Florida election officers, both campaigns and the American people are acting in good faith to try to find the "right" answer. The punch card ballots are difficult to use under the best of circumstan ces and the ballot could have been laid out differently. This was not an attempt by anybody to affect the outcome of the election. Both parties participated in this situation.
I also believe that the will of the voters can only be recognized with the ac ceptance of the disputed ballots as Gore votes. Gore won more votes, even if there was a technical problem that resulted in an unwanted second punch. 4.2% of the voters in Palm Beach County were disenfranchised by a poorly designed system. This is shock ing! This apparently has been going on for years, although not as badly. Why hasn't anybody noticed this and moved towards a system less prone to failure? I certainly hope that this would be a result of this election, not just in Florida, but throughout the country. If we have learned anything, it is that every vote counts and we have to design a system that accurately records every vote.