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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Floridation and Carter's Truth Decay

Jimmy Carter whacks vigorously away at my last remaining respect for him with this column in yesterday's WaPo. Let's begin:

After the debacle in Florida four years ago...

Whoops, hate to stop in the middle of the first sentence, but this would be a good time to remind everyone that there are two issues here:

1) There were accusations of voting irregularities in Florida, and

2) The vote in Florida was really, really close.

These two are not related, and Carter seems determined to obscure that fact.

Since I'm sitting here in my pajamas, I don't have to go looking for any facts or anything, so I'll just assert without proof that, in every state, in every election, there are always voting irregularities and complaints of vote tampering. Some of them may be actual tampering; some are just due to poor organization.

But in Florida these (alleged) irregularities were magnified by the close election there. The vote in Florida could have been absolutely positively 100% fair and aboveboard, and there still would have been a "debacle", because of the closeness of the vote. There still would have had to have been a recount, and statistically speaking, there still would've been errors.

To continue with Jimmy:

The Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections, all of them held under contentious, troubled or dangerous conditions. When I describe these activities...the almost inevitable questions are: "Why don't you observe the election in Florida?" and "How do you explain the serious problems with elections there?"

A good answer to this question would be: "Because Florida is not new to democracy. Because "disenfranchisement" in Florida means someone was told that the lines were too long, so he should come back later -- but, like, that was too much trouble. It does not mean your ballot says, 'Should George Bush be President? Choose one: __Yes __Kill Me Now'" But Carter seems determined to obscure that fact, too.

(Oh, and I wouldn't brag too much about your oversight of the Venezuelan elections if I were you, Jimmy.)

Carter says that Florida is missing some "basic international requirements" for a fair election, among which is:

Uniformity in voting procedures, so that all citizens, regardless of their social or financial status, have equal assurance that their votes are cast in the same way and will be tabulated with equal accuracy. Modern technology is already in use that makes electronic voting possible, with accurate and almost immediate tabulation and with paper ballot printouts so all voters can have confidence in the integrity of the process.

During the 2000 election, I was living in Australia, and the media there were full of wonder that we were using that antiquated Hollerith card technology. Not only that, but some more privileged areas got to use modern, efficient touch-screen voting machines, while the poor and downtrodden had to make do with these ancient punchcard devices.

During the 1998 election, I was living in among the technological have-nots and economic hopelessness in poverty-stricken Silicon Valley. We used punchards. We used them, I figured, because the voting stalls were easy to move. Most of my five years there, voting was done in the hall of a church about a block from my apartment (if I'd had a blog then, I could've thrown something on over my pajamas and toddled on over to vote). The last election I was there, though, the polling place had been moved to someone's garage a couple blocks away. If we'd had big, bulky voting machines, we might have had to have permanent polling places, which would have meant fewer polling places, and therefore voting would've been less convenient.

(Oh, yeah, I meant to say, impoverished, technologically deprived, and heavily Republican Silicon Valley.)

(And we had butterfly ballots, too, though in those halcyon days we didn't know they had special names, or that we were supposed to whine when we were too stupid to figure them out. Ah, things were simpler then.)

You see, that's the sort of thing that happens when you have small government entities and let them decide voting procedures for themselves: different areas make different choices. The Australians never could understand that. They are much less federal than we are.

Carter tells us about the horrible civil rights violations in Florida:

Several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities in 2000, and a fumbling attempt has been made recently to disqualify 22,000 African Americans (likely Democrats), but only 61 Hispanics (likely Republicans), as alleged felons.

That is an odd discrepancy in numbers, but I'm sure the Republicans will be surprised to find that Hispanics are their voting bloc. (Yeah, yeah, I know about the Cubans; but not every Hispanic is Cuban, not even in Florida.)

I think this is my favorite part:

The top election official [outed in the previous (elided) paragraph as a "highly partisan" elector for Bush -- A.S.] has also played a leading role in qualifying Ralph Nader as a candidate, knowing that two-thirds of his votes in the previous election came at the expense of Al Gore. She ordered Nader's name be included on absentee ballots even before the state Supreme Court ruled on the controversial issue.

Oh my God! You mean she let Nader on the ballot, knowing that he would take votes away from Democrats? Everyone knows you're only supposed to take votes away from Republicans! (Really, Jimmy, even if you had a point there, you might've expressed in such a way that didn't suggest you were more horrified that Bush might win than that the rules were broken. You know, just for the sake of appearances.)

You know what this is about. In 1980 I had a choice of voting for warmongering right-wing lunatic Ronald Reagan, or craven wimpy peacenik Jimmy Carter. So I voted for John Anderson, a third party candidate whose chief virtue was that he was not Reagan or Carter. Had there been no Anderson, I probably would've held my nose and voted for Carter. Betcha he's still smarting over that.

Meanwhile, in other states, Democrats have been trying to keep Nader off the ballot for that reason.

It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy. With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.

Let's say it again: every state in the Union, in every election, has some voting "irregularity" (scare quotes meaning it's not necessarily an illegality) which has someone screaming bloody murder, justly or not.

The mess that was the 2000 election did not come about because of voting irregularities in Florida. The close election only threw those particular irregularities into sharp relief. If God himself had been in charge of voting in Florida, it still would've been a nailbiter.

And Jimmy "Dances with Dictators" Carter would still be hinting that the Devil was behind it.

UPDATE: Jane Galt suggests that Carter is only accidentally looking like a complete partisan hack. Oh, well, then.