Putting fun back
It's almost over except for the litigation
November 2, 2004
As we go to the polls to decide our nation's future,
one can only hope it will all end with today's vote.
That's unlikely, though. The lawyers are already in
place to dispute election outcomes and voting procedures around the
The Democrats and John Kerry's campaign have as many
as 10,000 lawyers ready to go nationwide, including five "SWAT
teams" to be sent into key states to contest votes.
The Republicans probably have just as many lined up to
man the litigation trenches some 200 GOP attorneys are on duty in
Alabama today, according to press reports, and this is a state
forecast to be a walkover for President Bush.
But when you have hordes of legal beagles out looking
for things to keep themselves occupied, chances are they'll find
quite a few bones to gnaw on. In the days to come, we'll be hearing
a lot about such issues as alleged voter intimidation,
malfunctioning voting machines, questionable "provisional
votes," "disenfranchised" voters in places where
strict voter registration requirements are in force and
"unqualified" voters in places where voter registration
requirements are lax.
It may take awhile to sort things out. Quite possibly,
as happened in the 2000 presidential election, a court may decide
the winner of today's vote.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of
President Bush, and many supporters of Vice President Al Gore raised
an uproar over an election being decided (or stolen) by "five
votes" those of the five yea-voting Supreme Court justices.
It's a great sound bite, unless you consider that these same
outraged Gore supporters would have been perfectly content to allow
a half-dozen Democratic members of the Florida Supreme Court rewrite
voting regulations to ensure a Gore victory.
Hypocrisy knows no bounds in partisan politics,
particularly when radical extremes have disproportionate power
within their party structures.
Wouldn't it be great if there were a viable third
party one that includes everybody except the radical militants on
both sides of the political spectrum?
The U.S. election system, of course, isn't exactly
third-party friendly, but there's hope.
San Francisco is experimenting today with what it
calls "ranked choice voting" on its municipal
Under the system, also called "instant runoff
voting," voters choose not just their preferred candidates, but
second and third choices (and maybe even more) for the posts up for
If no candidate receives a majority of first-place
votes, the candidate with the least amount of first-place votes is
eliminated. The second-place choices of the voters for this
candidate are then counted as first-place votes for the remaining
candidates. The process is repeated until one candidate gets a
majority and is declared the winner.
I like the system, which has been successfully used
abroad, for two reasons:
It supports third parties because voters are more
likely to support underdogs if they know they'll have another chance
if their candidates tank (which they usually do). This would enable
some third parties to qualify for future elections without going
through the costly qualification process every four years getting
signatures on petitions, etc. (In Alabama, a party needs 20 percent
of the vote on one statewide ballot to qualify for the next
It also would ensure "majority" wins,
instead of "plurality" victories, as has been the case in
each U.S. election since 1988. (The vagaries of the Electoral
College still might mean the presidency not going to the top
vote-getter on occasions.) Here's another reason to like it: It
sounds like fun.
Electoral College Table of