My Turn: It's come to this: foreigners to monitor U.S. election

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2004

Election years really bring out the silliness in politicians, who, quite frankly, are a pretty silly lot to begin with. The latest example of election year nuttiness comes to us courtesy of a handful of Democratic lawmakers who have managed to secure an agreement with the U.S. State Department that will place foreign observers in some of our polling places during the 2004 presidential election.

Apparently there are some people who just can't let go of their anger over the 2000 election debacle, and this election monitoring scheme appears to be another dig at President Bush from Democrats who believe that he "stole" the election.

I can, to a point, appreciate their frustration. The 2000 presidential election was certainly not a proud moment in the history of our great nation. Let's face it - no matter who you wanted to win, the process didn't work very well and exposed some serious flaws in our electoral system. Hopefully we've made an attempt to address those problems since then.

And hopefully much of the effort to correct those problems was more substantive than bringing in this international election monitoring body, which seems like little more than a publicity stunt.

Unless this group (called the Organization for Security and Cooperation) brings in many thousands of skilled people to monitor a broad cross-section of the election processes within the various states, they couldn't possibly form a serious opinion about the state of our electoral system. I'm guessing they don't have that kind of muscle.

Still, it makes for an interesting spectacle, and that's what election years are all about. Heavy on style, hold the substance please.

Predictably, those who have regular nightmares about the New World Order became apoplectic over the prospect of foreign observers in our polling places. During debate over an amendment to a 2005 foreign aid bill that would have banned funding for U.N. monitoring of U.S. elections, Rep. Stephen Buyer raised the chilling specter of seeing "blue-helmeted foreigners inside your local library, school or fire station."

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard Buyer's alarming scenario was - why would they be wearing helmets? Are some Americans voting in dangerous construction zones?

Also, do some people really get to vote at fire stations? How cool would that be? I wonder if they'd let you slide down the pole while you were there.

But seriously, if the United Nations or any other well-intentioned organization wants to hang out at the school gymnasium while I cast my ballot this fall, I welcome them regardless of the color or style of their headwear. I think they'll find the operation runs very smoothly, at least in my neck of the woods.

And if they really want to help us make our presidential election process more fair, efficient and reliable, they'll suggest we do away with the outmoded, illogical electoral college and move towards a uniform, nationwide system of popular election. The presidency should be decided on the principle of one American, one vote. All the votes for a particular candidate in a particular state should not be thrown out of the final tally just because another candidate wins a simple majority of votes within that state.

The current system is not fair and it does not make good sense. And if any U.N. observer will back me up on that, I'll shine his baby blue helmet, free of charge.

• Bill Ferguson is a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. Readers may write to him at: The Macon Telegraph, 120 Broadway, Macon, Ga. 31201-3444; e-mail:

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