National election ripe for change

My turn

Posted: Friday, December 01, 2000

After being inundated with presidential election propaganda for well over a year, much of which was unverifiable, we found ourselves earnestly staring at the television on election day. For some it was to see if their vote ended up in the winning column. For others it was a sigh of relief that once every four years was enough.

Being at the mercy of television networks' biases and rush to call the election early, we are told that Gore, then Bush and then no one is victorious.

One party informs us that manual counts are needed in certain Florida counties because of ballot dimples, hanging chads and highly questionable absentee ballots. The other party tells us that two machine counts are enough.

We finally realize that the cornerstone of the entire national election for president lies in the hands of the state of Florida. We are introduced to a pathetic and conflicting structure of Florida election laws, a typical partisan bureaucracy, including a Secretary of State and a multitude of county canvassing boards using conflicting ballot tabulation standards and unreliable voting machines.

We notice the event has taken on the appearance of a future compensation enhancement act for ambitious lawyers. Others have described it as a newscaster sideshow in a media circus. One could argue that our presidential election has become a sequel to the O.J. criminal case.

You have attorneys and political consultants piling into Florida by the hundreds, some apparently volunteering their time in hopes of future bounty. Both cases have "whipping boys" to demonize the opposing party. The overseas military ballot fiasco is being used by one party in an attempt to discredit the patriotism of the other. This is ironic considering the sorry military background of both candidates. Comparatively, the O.J. attorneys railroaded the L.A. crime lab investigators for lack of standards and beat up a cowboy detective while the chief prosecutor was admiring her new hair do.

In both cases there has been a rush to judgment that significantly impacted the emotions of the people and the outcome. The abbreviated jury deliberation period in the O.J. case is about as difficult to understand as our national TV commentators' untimely and inaccurate projections of who will be our next president. Both political parties, the Secretary of State in Florida, and even some judicial jurisdictions have pursued actions prematurely, creating mass confusion and frustration for the Florida canvassing boards, the end result serving a real injustice to the Florida voter.

In the O.J. case, the end result was enhancement of peoples' careers, book deals, advertising profits, a not-so-innocent defendant, and the victims being forgotten.

Regardless of who becomes our next president, the end result of this election will be similar with the voter being forgotten unless the State of Florida is manually recounted using consistent tabulation standards by all counties.

The next president will have lost his luster even before he moves into the White House. He will have been elected, not by the intent of the people, but by a bureaucratic legal and political process. This ongoing battle of hypocrisy will no doubt create more apathy among future voters. The winner will always be labeled as the ineffective lame duck who was anointed by a court decision, or maybe a canvassing board, or perhaps by a secretary of state. And if Florida refuses to rectify their election laws and voting process, the people of Florida and maybe the entire country, will continue to realize that their vote may not count.

Isn't it time to reevaluate the presidential election process so that future elections will not be decided by bought and paid for attorneys, conflicting court opinions, political bullies, partisan politics, or public opinion swayed by media broadcasting?

In the O.J. case we may have to tolerate the jury decision in order to maintain our individual rights under the constitution. But there is no reason for this country to tolerate a national election process that needs to be revamped, from the electoral college process down to the ridiculous notion that we can't do anything about hanging or pregnant chads.

Jenson is a Juneau CPA who has 28 years of experience in auditing Alaska's governmental programs, departments and boards.

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