Broken Election 2000

The popular assumption about American democracy is that it is in fact a democracy. Despite the blatant inequalities of the system, we believe that the average citizen has the power to make a difference -- at the polls. But the painful lesson of this year's presidential election is that not all votes count, and some cost more than others.

Below are excerpts from five articles that reveal the inadequacies of our electoral system. The full text of each article can be accessed by following the link at the end of each excerpt.

(Dis)Counting the Black Vote
Arianna Huffington, AlterNet

A detailed analysis of the Florida vote by The Washington Post last week produced a staggering finding: the higher the percentage of black voters, the higher the rate of rejected ballots. For instance, up to a third of the ballots cast in Jacksonville's black precincts were tossed out -- four times more than in neighboring white precincts.

In [largely black] precincts, there were longer lines, more unreliable voting machines and less access to technology that instantly identified mismarked ballots and gave voters a second chance. So, even when it comes to this most egalitarian of acts, some are more equal than others....

In an unprecedented move, Florida had hired a private company (laden, as it turns out, with Republicans) to purge its voter rolls. But the "scrub list" the company supplied was riddled with inaccuracies -- once again disproportionately penalizing African Americans. In Hillsborough County, for instance, 54 percent of those on the error-filled list of felons to be excised from the rolls were black, though African Americans account for less than 12 percent of the county's voting population.

Read the full version of the article.

Florida's Lessons for Black Leaders
Cedric Muhammad,

The most striking aspect of the debate over Black voting rights violations is that they have not shaped the Gore legal challenges to the election results.

One member of the Black Caucus told us that they are extremely disappointed with the manner in which the Gore campaign and legal team have decided to contest the election believing that Gore has placed the strongest arguments against the election results aside in favor of a more moderate approach...

Blacks have shown that they are the most loyal group of voters in the American electorate. And they have proven that their support only gets stronger under the most difficult of circumstances. Now the question remains, what will Black leaders do to protect the sanctity of the Black vote? After all, voting rights violations have occurred where Blacks are concerned, in every election since the late 1800s.

Read the full version of the article.

W. Stands for Wrongful
Harold Meyerson, L.A. Weekly

Two contradictory lessons are emerging from November's presidential election. One, in view of the excruciating closeness of the contest, is that every vote counts. The other, propounded by conservative jurists at play in the fields of 18th-century law and values, is that it's not even the case that any vote counts. Or at least, that there's no constitutional right to vote for president...

The now month-long democratic dysfunction in Florida is likely to result not only in W.'s presidency, but in the reassertion of one of the most elitist and anti-democratic features of our governmental structure, justly and understandably repressed for many decades. No wonder W. is in hiding: He's taking power by virtue of votes not counted, because of the Electoral College's bias against one-person, one-vote, and now on the wings of a ringing assault on popular rule.

Read the full version of the article.

When Machines Pick Our Presidents
Steven Hill, AlterNet

What if Al Gore really had more support from Florida voters than George W. Bush? But due to voting equipment failure and well-meaning human error enough votes were swiped from Gore's tally to overturn the election? Indeed, a precinct by precinct analysis conducted by the Miami Herald concluded just that, saying that in a less error-prone election Florida likely would have gone to Al Gore by as many as 23,000 votes.

This may be the first presidential election that will result in, not victory by fraud, but victory by, what shall we call it -- malfunction?

Examining all the evidence, the picture that emerges is that voting irregularities and antiquated voting machines that disenfranchised thousands of minority voters is probably determining our next president. If we allow such a slipshod process for the highest office in the land, what kind of standard does that establish for future elections, especially at lower levels?

Read the full version of the article.

Formula for a Fair Count
Clark Williams-Derry, Grist

If mathematicians who specialize in voting systems (and there are a surprising number who do) were to choose a method of picking a president, the American way would be just about the last one they'd pick.

Simply stated, the problem with American-style plurality voting (in which the person with the most first-place votes wins the election) is that a candidate who is opposed by the majority of voters can still win, while a candidate who is favored, at least grudgingly, by the majority of voters can lose....

My favorite candidate to replace the plurality system is called Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV. IRV requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference (e.g., first Nader, then Gore, then Bush). The candidate who receives the fewest first-place votes is eliminated from the running, and all of their supporters' votes are transferred to whoever was next in line on the ballots. This process is repeated, the field gradually narrowing as votes are reassigned, until a single candidate gets a majority of the votes.

IRV is not just a mathematician's pipe dream; it has a proven track record. Australia and Ireland both use IRV for national elections; the Cambridge, Mass., city council is chosen via IRV; and efforts are underway to implement IRV in Alaska, Vermont, and New Mexico...

Read the full version of the article.

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