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Real election reform

By Bruce Walker
web posted July 15, 2002

Does anyone really care about election reform? Liberals whine about it a great deal, with Jesse Jackson making yet another tired and dumb comment about a stolen election, but they do not focus on any of the obvious and serious abuses of the election process. And liberals are certainly not interested in any genuine reform of how we vote.

It seems as if conservatives are not very interested in the issue either, although we should care a great deal. The recent revelation that Gore operatives sprang President Bush's ancient drunk driving arrest just before the election to push undecided voters away from Bush shows just how damaging the combination of Democrat trickery and liberal media prostitution can be to an election. Spiking this story until right before an election and then spreading it like wildfire in television news stories almost certainly President Bush the popular vote.

Who cares about that arrest today? Who cared about it two weeks after Election Day? No one. Democrats raised these sorts of issues simply to maximize electoral support for their party for one day out of every two years. Historically this has led to some of the most contemptible behavior in American political history.

The Johnson announcement: Dirty trick or honest coincidence?
The Johnson announcement: Dirty trick or honest coincidence?

LBJ announced an end to the bombing of North Vietnam just a few days before the November 1968 election, and Hubert Humphrey - who had trailed Nixon by seventeen percentage points in September 1998 - made a giant surge which almost won Humphrey the Presidency. The flash impression was created, just as LBJ intended, that our boys would soon be coming home.

Senate Democrats ultimately found that President George H. Bush was innocent of the wild allegations they had made been making for the previous eight years of inquisition, but that finding was announced the day after his electoral defeat in November 1992. Liberal "journalists" so sanctimonious about the "people's right to know" spiked this critical story until the people could not do anything about it.

On election night in November 2000, liberal networks waited forever to call Ohio for George W. Bush (even though the polls in Ohio were closed and the margin of victory was comfortable) but these same networks did call Florida for Gore (even though polls in the largely Republican panhandle of Florida were open, the projection was false, and the vote was much too close for any network to honestly call for Gore or for Bush).

The impact of that last dirty trick not only affected the Florida vote, but also could have cost Bush the electoral votes of very close states like New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oregon which combined would have made Florida irrelevant (i.e. Bush would have won the election if he carried those four states and lost Florida).

Republicans candidates were also involved in very tight Senate races in Minnesota, Nebraska and Washington, as well as the Carnahan "campaign" in Missouri. Had even one of these four very close races been tipped to the Democrats because of Republicans in those states assuming Gore had won, then the monkey business of the television networks also cost Republicans control of the Senate.

That was not the only torpedo launched by Democrats on election night. Remember the Missouri judge who issued an emergency order to keep certain precincts open later than Missouri law allowed? Those voting areas requiring extraordinary judicial interest just happened to be overwhelmingly Democrat areas, and Missouri had very tight races for its electoral votes, for Senator Ashcroft's seat, and for Governor.

Who knows what sort of nastiness liberal Democrats have dreamed up for November 2002? Who doubts that they will try anything to mislead, confuse and stampede voters? The left only needs to persuade the gullible and busy voters for one day each two years, and the willingness of liberals to do anything for power opens the door for true election chicanery.

Republicans should propose several election reforms which would undo much Democrat and liberal mischief-making. As a start, federal law should allow voters a much longer period in which to cast their votes. Why not provide that any registered voter can cast his ballot for any federal candidate or, if the candidate of a party has not yet been chosen, for whomever wins the nomination of that party for an office at any time after June 1st?

Then give voters the right to change their minds and change their votes before November. This would not impact the vast majority of conservative voters, who have long since dug in their heels and are proof against liberal lies, but it would provide some protection against ripples of emotional reaction by wavering voters.

Those voters who supported Bush in mid-October 2000 would probably have already cast their ballots under this system. Would the drunk driving revelation have caused them to go through the bother of re-voting? Probably not. Given a period of reflection, these voters would have viewed this tiny factor in their voting decision as not important enough to change a vote already cast. But compelling everyone to vote within a close time period allows liberals to force voters to react to "revelations" without reflection.

And why count all the votes on election night? Would it not make more sense to count each ballot when it is cast and to make that information public? This would allow each ballot to be reviewed for irregularities or misinterpretations far enough ahead of Election Day so that voters who did not complete all the formalities should correct those deficiencies.

An orderly and methodical vote counting process would allow voting credentials to be reviewed and questionable ballots to be reviewed, so that felons and illegal aliens could be discovered before the votes were counted. This process would even allow those voters whose ballots were unclear to be contacted and advised simply "Your vote could not be determined on the ballot you cast. Federal law allows you four weeks to obtain a new ballot and to cast your ballot again."

It would also help reduce fraud if a voter was given the right to publicly cast and record his vote. The average citizen has been told that the secret ballot is a "sacred right" which is "indispensable to free democracy" (despite the fact that the Australian ballot, or secret ballot, did not take firm root in the United States until late in the Nineteenth Century).

If public voting were optional, then many - perhaps most - voters would choose to vote publicly. The party affiliation and campaign contributions of citizens are already public. If I give George W. Bush campaign contributions, register as a Republican, place "Re-Elect the President" signs in my yard, and put similar bumper stickers on my car then who really wonders if I voted for him in 2004? How do networks get the raw data needed to make their predictions? Exit polling! "Mr. Smith, who did you vote for President?"

Would we want legislators to cast secret votes on bills? In fact, are not those slippery tactics of legislative leaders to allow members to pretend to support certain reforms while actually opposing those reforms not part of the very problem of government? Hiding a vote invites corruption. Compelling votes to be public illuminates fraud.

The putative danger of public voting, of course, is that those who voted for the losing candidates could be subject to mistreatment by government. This is silly. Demographics already reveal which types of people voted for which candidates, and politicians react accordingly. Legislation and regulations are tailored to appease or punish big clumps of people, not individuals.

But assume people were terrified if government officials knew how they voted. Is that fact not an excellent indicator of how arrogant and powerful government has become? That very fear factor could be used to make a compelling case for reducing the size and importance of government so that its owners, its masters, its creators - all of us - could vote for its elected officers with the same safety which we can (or should) be able to criticize its actions.

These electoral reforms are simple, straightforward and easy to implement. President Bush could reduce the entire legislative proposal to a single page of large font text, and he could explain how this would restore the sanctity of the vote.

Our President seems to have a hankering for grabbing Democrat issues and turning them into Republican issues. He can make a good and wise proposal for election reform which will shut up Democrats forever. He can enhance his deserved reputation for decency and honesty. And he might even take a giant step toward restoring government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a contributor to Citizens View, The Common Conservative, Conservative Truth and Port of Call.

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