The courts, particularly the Florida Supreme Court, are repressing people and it’s got to stop.
If the endless election has taught us anything, beyond an understanding of the matriculation procedures at the Electoral College, it’s that we’ve got to have standards. We’ve got to show a little consideration for others. Above all, we’ve got to make people feel good about themselves. What else is government for?
This is the Democratic message, loud and clear, delivered ad nauseam morning, noon and through every night on every cable-TV channel between here and eternity. But some election judges in Florida just don’t get it. And if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. It’s enough to make a yellow dog cry, particularly a yellow dog whose motto is “others.”
For example, when the judges in Broward County looked at the ballots the machines couldn’t count, they tried really, really hard to figure out what the voter really meant when he/ she couldn’t punch a hole in his/her ballot, or even put a dent or a dimple in it. Some judges held the ballot up to the light, to see whether the ballot could be pregnant with a dimple, and other judges went even farther, and looked to see who else the citizen had voted for in other races on the ballot. (It has never been made quite clear why the punching power of these worthies seemed to peter out only on the presidential line.)
In Palm Beach County, on the other hand, the election judges didn’t pay attention to the dimples, pregnant or not, as if getting a ballot in a family way was not really any of the business of election judges.
This lack of a coherent or consistent standard is what seemed to bother the Supremes most yesterday. Justice David Souter, a bachelor who lived for decades past puberty with his mom (who may not have explained to him how ballots and other things actually get pregnant), told David Boies, Al Gore’s $800-an-hour trial lawyer, that if the Supremes allow the recounts to go forward they might have to offer guidance as to how to count the chads, hanging, clinging, pregnant or otherwise.
“If we respond to this issue …” Mr. Justice Souter said, “I think we would have a responsibility to tell the Florida courts what to do about it.”
Well, yes, of course, but if we really, really want to do the right thing we must not stand on the legal technicalities that only constipate the body politic. This is what the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, the two theological giants of our age, and Prof. Alan Dershowitz, the eminent Harvard notability and perhaps the most brilliant ornament of the law in this century (just ask him), have been trying to tell us.
In the beginning, light years and 35 days ago, Professor Dershowitz identified the problem as the systematic disenfranchisement of “Holocaust survivors” who live in the million-dollar condos along Florida’s gold coast, who were presumably disenfranchised by ancient Nazis from Auschwitz disguised as Republican election officials. (This part of the Dershowitz revelation is not clear). The instrument of disenfranchisement was the so-called “butterfly ballot,” designed to confuse little old ladies who can handle a dozen bingo cards at once and detect with computerlike precision a 6-cent miscalculation of her share of the check when she’s lunching with eight of her pals, but who cannot figure out what an arrow on a ballot meant when it pointed to the hole for Al and Joe.
When that argument died the little old ladies couldn’t miss their tee times the Rev. Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton stepped up with the news that Bull Connor and Orval Faubus had been at work again repressing black voters. A record turnout in black precincts propelled the black vote to 16 percent of the statewide total, even though black voters make up just 13 percent of the electorate. You can imagine what the turnout would have been but for all those snarling police dogs and tumescent fire hoses. Many of these black precincts were equipped with only hand-me-down voting machines, which confused many first-time voters into voting twice.
Incredibly, these ballots were disqualified. But why shouldn’t these voters have been allowed to vote twice? Such votes could have been considered reparations for all those times when they were not allowed to vote at all.
And what of all the voters, black and white, who would have voted but couldn’t find a parking place, and went sadly home? Doesn’t the state have an obligation to provide parking places to well-meaning citizens? What about voters who went out for a late lunch and couldn’t make it through heavy traffic? Or those who would have voted if the election had been held on a more convenient day? Don’t these people get any consideration?
What kind of rotten country is this, anyway?