- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 11, 2000

Vote counting needs to enter new century

Regardless of who wins the presidential race, the elemental question before Americans should not be whether the electoral college should be replaced by the popular vote. Rather, the crucial question is whether the tabulation process provides an accurate reflection of the true wishes of the voters.

As the media have reported, under the bright light of the exceedingly close presidential race, several glaring and disturbing irregularities in the current vote-tabulation process have been revealed. Generally, voters are more apt to accept the victory of an opposing party's candidate when the results and the process of obtaining those results are not flawed. In the present case, it is doubtful, regardless of who wins, that the next president can be certain his victory reflects the true wishes of the American voters, and vote-tabulation irregularities undoubtedly will lead to questions of legitimacy (quite correctly, we believe).

In this day and age, we are baffled by the archaic vote-tabulation process. We suggest a more credible and up-to-date means of administrating the process, using computers. We envision voters stepping into voting booths and selecting their candidates from a touch screen. If the voter makes a mistake, the voter simply hits the "back" key and starts again. After each vote, the voter is asked if he or she is sure the desired candidate has been chosen. The computer then prints out two copies, a voter copy detailing the voter's choices and a hard copy to be deposited into an old-fashioned ballot box. The networked computers send the votes to a central computer station, where the votes are tallied electronically. When the polls close, final tallies, one generated by the computers and one generated by the hard copies, are compared to assure complete accuracy, reliability and accountability.

The current vote-tabulation process apparently has failed in Florida, and probably elsewhere. It seems to us that Americans must demand and be assured that their next elected official is the true choice of the voters, as opposed to the victor in a contest that relies on antiquated tabulation methods with likely irregularities. Without accuracy, reliability and accountability, voter confidence will further erode and could seriously jeopardize democracy in our country.

BLAINE KNIGHT

Silver Spring

KAMRON KEELE

Washington

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After every train wreck, the populace responds by demanding that the train track be repaired. After Tuesday's presidential election, both Republicans and Democrats can agree that our current system of voting is flawed: The ballot debacle in Florida and other states is a danger to American democracy.

Some 100 million voters made major choices over some 14 hours on Tuesday. Today, we still do not know the results. We have forced recalls of defective computer chips that have far less significance than our national vote tallies. If our ATMs made such errors, banks would fail. The same amount of data is summed routinely by Wall Street in seconds and to the penny. In air traffic, nuclear power generation, the military and other important aspects of our life, such an inefficient level of technology would not be tolerated.

If, instead of our current system, we had one computer in a voting station, a modem and a standby generator, the world could know the exact real-time and final status of the vote within seconds of poll closings. Exit polls should go the way of fortunetelling and become fodder for comedians.

Let's repair our method of voting.

R.L. HAILS

Olney

n

It is really hard to believe, in this era of supercomputers, fiber optic and satellite communications, that the geniuses in Silicon Valley cannot devise a foolproof, accurate and fast system of recording the nation's votes instead of an antiquated paper-ballot-dependent method that is prone to mistakes and delay.

Perhaps, though, this system of individually counting disparate pieces of paper that vary in size, color and appearance is perpetuated because it is more conducive to tampering and fraud by any party or individual who desires to skew an election.

REINHARDT WENDE

Williamsville, N.Y.

Teachers union quashes vouchers, protects status quo

I read with interest the Nov. 9 article "Voting on vouchers." One thing your readers might like to know is that a Sacramento radio station listed the sources of financial support for and against California's Proposition 38, the school voucher proposition. The highest contributors for the proposition were wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalists to the tune of about $20 million to $30 million. The top contributor against the measure was the teachers union the California Teachers Association is said to have spent $24 million to oppose school choice.

This has reaffirmed what I have always believed only the entrenched teachers unions vehemently oppose school choice. The union blanketed the state with misleading advertisements saying that vouchers benefit only the rich and take money from public schools. What the ads failed to say was that out of about $8,000 public schools would have received for each student, only $4,000 was to be paid to students choosing not to go to public school. So public schools would have received extra money to spend on the rest of the class.

Of course, facts have never been an obstacle to those on the other side who favor anything to keep the status quo.

SATISH RAJAN

Roseville, Calif.

Electoral college reflects founders' wisdom

I have never before felt so privileged and proud to be an American. Our Constitution is the most dynamic instrument of law between a people and their government ever conceived. The true and right qualities of justice are fairness, reason and the rule of law. The recent general election no doubt will bring an effort from many to change the Constitution through the amendment process. The assault will be launched under the guise of progress. Those urging change will desire no less than the abolishment of the electoral college system. They will claim to be proponents of a truer form of democracy. "One person, one vote" will be their rallying cry. Appealing as this approach may appear on the surface, it is both wrongheaded and unjust.

Such a system would motivate presidential candidates to pander to large populations of urban special-interest groups. This would marginalize vast numbers of people in the discourse on public policy. The propensity to commit large-scale voter fraud in some cities might prove too great even for the most noble among us. The patronage system, exploited to its fullest in just a few cities, could lead to a system akin to a political monarchy on a national level. The effect could be to render it a near absolute power on a federal level that could never be defeated.

Such an outcome is not fair, reasonable or just. When the old white men set this government in motion back in the 18th century, they used reason and political forethought. They knew a balance had to be struck for the sake of fairness between the interests of city dwellers and rural inhabitants of our vast countryside. They also knew that the overzealous might commit vote fraud in isolated areas. What more just way to balance the interests of various regions of the country and contain any ill effects of vote fraud than the electoral college? This institution takes into account both apportionment by population and equal representation by state. This compromise is justice. It is fair, well-reasoned and clearly stated by law.

At times like these, we all should realize how blessed we are that those who came before us possessed such wisdom. They framed a timeless document that breathes life into these United States every day.

WAYNE E. DUNN

Indianapolis, Ind.

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