Political war breaks out in Florida

By Joan Walsh

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 10, 2000 8:34AM (EST)

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The press and the politicians have gone to great lengths to point out that "now you see why voting is important" and "every vote counts." Yet partisan GOP members are so quick to dismiss 19,000 ballots that were tossed out and another 3,000 that were accidentally cast for Buchanan, because "the ballots were approved."

Are they saying that these people of Palm Beach County lost their right to vote by not being more involved in the ballot design approval process? That's ridiculous. No one is suggesting this was done on purpose. But it's obviously wrong. If we're to really believe that our vote matters, the people of Palm Beach County should be treated as if their votes matter. Otherwise, what we're all hearing is, Your vote only counts if you're voting for our candidate.

-- Michael Burdick

If Bush and/or the Republicans were so certain that they won in Florida, then they would not be pushing their "the ballot was fine" stance quite so hard. Obviously, there were problems with the ballot -- 19,120 people don't make the same mistake without a reason. If their confidence was so high, they couldn't possibly believe that having another chance to vote in West Palm Beach or all of Florida could hurt. I suppose they are thinking the end (unified government) justifies the means (ignoring the people whom they are elected to serve).

Were the tables turned, I know in my heart the Democrats would be just as ungracious and "snippy" as the Republicans are being right now. But were the tables turned, the Republicans would also be doing what the Democrats are doing in this situation. It's very sad all around in America right now.

-- Elizabeth Stewart

Isn't it entirely plausible that the exit polls were right -- people came out and said, "I voted for Al Gore," but then their votes were either for the wrong candidate or were disqualified?

The original call to Gore was not a mistake.

-- Jeff Boldt

Here in Oregon, the polls were still open when CNN mistakenly called Florida for Gore.

Among Green supporters here, some intended to vote for Nader in any case, but many others intended to vote "strategically," sending a Green message only if they felt their votes were not needed to stop Bush.

About 10 days before the election, I went around my neighborhood and knocked on doors where there were Nader signs in their yards. Of eight people who talked to me, two said they were hardcore, two said they'd already decided to vote for Gore, and four said they would wait till the last minute.

How many last-minute strategic voters got fooled by the Florida call and voted for Nader because they concluded that Gore was safe? We probably won't know, but it is possible that there were enough of them to decide the election in Oregon, where Bush seems to have a slight edge (ballots are still being counted).

-- Marcia Harris

With all the controversy swirling over the legitimacy of the Palm Beach County ballots, I believe that the media has overlooked the fact that 9,888 votes were cast in Volusia County for Socialist Workers Party candidate James Harris. Harris received a total of 10,469 votes statewide in Florida and some 20,000 votes throughout the United States. Therefore, 50 percent of Harris' total votes came from this one relatively small county!

Unless Volusia County, which includes Daytona Beach, is a hotbed of Marxist-Leninist dogma, I cannot fathom how this is an accurate vote tally.

-- Sandra Janin

I am shocked by the Palm Beach voters who are demanding a new vote. I would be ashamed to admit -- publicly no less -- that I was so careless in my voting that I failed to follow the numbered arrow on the ballot to the candidate of my choice.

Our democracy does not require voters to possess even a modicum of literacy, but perhaps it should.

-- Dee Brainard

I am an educated person with 21 years of schooling successfully completed. I feel no shame in telling you that the Palm Beach ballot is configured in a way that is confusing to me.

In the voting booth, I normally feel a little pressure to complete my selections as quickly as possible -- people are waiting in line. Combining the confusing ballot with the pressure of limited time, I believe many Floridians did, in fact, miscast their votes for Buchanan when they intended to select Gore. I think Buchanan stated as much in an interview earlier Thursday morning.

Under these circumstances, a revote is appropriate in any Florida counties which used that confusing ballot.

-- Edward Albert

Palm Beach County must have a revote. It is very unlikely that 3,407 voters intended to vote for Buchanan, and the high vote count validates complaints, many received even before Florida was credited to Gore, that the ballot was confusing enough to cause mistakes.

To neutralize concerns that Palm Beach County voter turnout could be demographically altered in the revote, the county could use its records to only allow those who voted on Election Day to participate in the revote.

I hope the county lets its voters say what they meant to say.

-- Raymond Himka

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2000 Elections Joan Walsh