Seeing good in election chaos

Locals are tired of partisanship, but finding some positive sides of the election aftermath

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2000

According to media reports, the recent goings-on - some would say shenanigans - of Florida's executive, judicial and legislative branches of government, not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court, have left Americans variously appalled, bemused and, well, still uncommitted.

But an Empire sampling of Juneau residents' thoughts indicates locals see some good coming out the ordeal that began the night of the presidential election and ended with Al Gore's concession to George W. Bush on Wednesday. Others say something needs to be done, and still others that the country's greatest partisan contest needs to become less partisan.

Lifelong Juneau resident Dean Williams thought the post-election maneuvers by both parties "were kind of hair-raising, to say the least," but that some good things could come of it. "Maybe if we hadn't had this kind of mess, nothing would be done about the problem," said the 84-year-old.

But calls for changes in the U.S. Constitution don't move him, Williams said. He cited a

Democrat friend's longtime stand for the inviolability of the state's constitution and the man's current call for changes to the nation's charter. "I enjoyed pointing that out to him. I think we have to go by the Constitution."

Williams said he was "happy to see Bush get in," though he was "never really a Bush man."

Former Juneau Assembly member Rosalee Walker had a similar take - at least about the "good" part: "Out of chaos, sometimes good comes," she said.

Americans are tired of partisanship, she said.

"The party is just part of it, but not the main goal" of politics, said the 51-year Democratic Party member - even though she characterized herself as a one-time yellow-dog Democratic, that is, one who always voted the party slate.

And people who condemned the U.S. Supreme Court for voting strictly along partisan lines were not taking into account the partisan nature of Florida's high court, she said.

Some of the problems being pointed out with voting and vote-counting in Florida "have been going on all along, as well as problems with old machines and with the voting in black or Cuban neighborhoods," Walker said.

"I'm pretty sure in other states it's even more serious," she said. "But the race was so close in Florida they were forced to put it under a microscope."

Landscaper Ed Buyarski found the post-election process "highly entertaining" as he listened to it on the radio at a deer camp outside Juneau. At the same time, he thought some of the process in Florida "appalling," he said. "Personally, I think they should have done a recount - the whole thing."

Buyarski proposed an Electoral College fix: Award the candidate electors in proportion to the number of votes the candidate receives, as opposed to the current winner-take-all method applied in all but two states.

It's time to dump the Electoral College entirely, said Juneau-Douglas High School history teacher Laury Scandling.

"It is the most difficult thing I teach, because it makes no sense," she said.

Scandling's class is in the middle of replicating a 1787 constitutional gathering in Philadelphia, where the Electoral College made its initial appearance. "I try to teach it; I go over and over it; we act it out; we draw charts," she said. Scandling has even used a sports metaphor, she said, explaining that it's the winner of the most games that gets the pennant, not the team with the most runs.

They still don't get it, she said. "It's time for it to go."

Assembly member Frankie Pillifant said the process was "an eyeful" for her. At one point she went online to try to get a handle on the Electoral College, she said.

Pillifant worried that formal procedures were riddled with "microdecisions, with each of the decisions two-sided."

But "although my guy didn't take the presidency, it did begin a dialogue," she said. "Jeb Bush was a day late and a dollar short. If I lived in Florida, I'd be really upset. Imagine what we would think if this happened in a Third World country, with the candidate's younger brother in charge of the election."

The U.S. Supreme Court's final solution left University of Alaska Southeast spokesman Scott Foster frustrated, he said. "The ideological split was very apparent and the court's a big loser in this."

Questions about the legitimacy of the outcome remain, Foster said, but with Florida's strong "sunshine" laws, he fully expects reporters and others to effect another recount.

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