Votes counted; it’s time to accept result

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 12, 2000

Staff Editorial

Nov. 11, 2000 10 PM

More than 200 years ago, a new country formed and began implementing laws and procedures that its founders hoped would assist in governing it for years to come.

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One of those processes was the Electoral College, an all-or-nothing system of awarding votes to presidential candidates based on the will of the people in each state. Unlike the popular vote, which can be split in some states, the Electoral College cannot be split in 48 of our 50 states.

The purpose of this system was to give smaller states a stronger voice and to ensure that candidates have the incentive to carry their message throughout the country and not spend all of their time and money discussing issues in larger metropolitan areas.

Furthermore, it’s a system that civics experts have told us for years could result in the election of someone who did not carry the popular vote.

Now we are confronted with this reality and a difficult set of facts.

And it all boils down to one county in our neighboring state.

We believe a vote is not something that can be given and taken away. It’s not something that allows a person to take two bites out of the same apple. It’s binding and it’s final, and if people make mistakes and vote for the wrong candidate or they vote for two candidates instead of one, they must learn to live with those mistakes.

Furthermore, once local officials from both parties have given their approval to a ballot, we think other organizations on a state and national level lose the ability to contest the results of that vote. Potential problems should be addressed before Election Day and not afterward. Once we allow those mistakes to be printed and we give our approval to those ballots, we forfeit the right to complain about the results that those ballots yield.

By failing to take proper action before the process of voting begins, we should be forced to live with the results of the process.

This is called accountability. And there’s not enough of it these days.

In Alabama, indeed, in Pike County, there were people who voted for two presidential candidates. By doing this, people forfeit their vote on the particular office in question. Our ballots cannot be counted fairly and accurately should two candidates get votes for the same office. And according to the rules of elections, these votes are disqualified because election officials and computers cannot know what the intent of the voter was when the ballot was marked.

It’s reality. We don’t get a second chance. We don’t get to eat the same apple twice.

Because ballots vary from county to county and state to state, it is difficult to make them all uniform. And adding the human element in to those who create the ballots, to those who approve the ballots and to the thousands of voters who fail to resolve their confusion after seeing sample ballots, we open our system up to potential problems.

In this case, the presidency of our country is at stake. The bickering over ballots, the pending lawsuits and the refusal of the American people, the Democratic Party and the Democratic candidate to concede that this election was fair despite not being perfect erodes people’s faith in government.

The process and the count are being questioned and the candidate who lost under this system, Al Gore, and his supporters and advisors owe it to the American people to submit to this system, however faulty, and to the will of the American people. Gore may have won the popular vote, but the fact remains that two counts have revealed that he didn’t win the Electoral College, which is all that matters when it comes to the selection of president.

He owes it to us to bow to this system and accept his defeat with dignity so our country can heal and move on. It’s not right for his camp to call the system into question after it failed to generate his desired result. The time for questions was before the first vote was cast, not after the election ended. By failing to accept responsibility, the candidate and his closest advisors have indicated a concern for themselves over the concerns of the electorate.

We believe it’s a question of accountability and we encourage the people in Florida who let this questionable ballot be printed and distributed and Al Gore supporters in all forms to accept this. It may not be perfect, but it’s the same system that has governed us well for 224 years. We can’t change the rules after the game has been played. We can’t have two bites of the same piece of forbidden fruit.

Let us unite and move on.  

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