Most Washington area residents, weary of indecision in this year’s presidential election, expressed relief yesterday over the Supreme Court ruling that effectively ended a month of legal and political wrangling.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Susan Price, a psychiatrist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. “I didn’t like the outcome, but we need to move on.”
By votes of 7-2 and 5-4 Tuesday, Supreme Court justices stopped another recount of Florida votes, effectively turning the state’s decisive 25 electoral votes over to Texas Gov. George W. Bush and ending Vice President Al Gore’s presidential bid.
Many agreed it was time to end the election, prolonged five weeks by legal battles in Florida and federal courts about voting procedures, ballots, uncounted and absentee ballots.
“It’s a darned good thing. They put it off too long as it was to announce it,” said W.B. Mountcastle, 85, a funeral home operator in Alexandria.
The protracted struggle was, to some, a losing situation for the Supreme Court too.
“I’m disappointed the court got involved in this. I think it sullies the reputation of the Supreme Court to get involved in this,” said Sally Greenberg of Northwest.
“I think it’s awful,” said Kathy Ryan, who lives near Mount Vernon, home of the nation’s first president. “I felt it was all so political, even into the courts, and that’s what bothers me.”
But Gershon Fishbein, a former newspaper editor from Bethesda, said, “It’s heartening to see that the Supreme Court followed the law … It really doesn’t matter whether it’s for Gore or Bush. In the end, the law had won.”
“I guess I think on one side that [the Supreme Court] shouldn’t have heard it in the first place, that the Supreme Court should be apolitical. At least the decision was right,” said Bill Walt, 25, a Georgetown University law student from Connecticut.
Still others said the court should have sent the case back to the Florida Supreme Court and allow that court to set a standard for a recount to continue.
“I’m not a happy camper right now,” Angel Lyn-Nesse of Northwest said as she stood outside the Metro Center station yesterday afternoon. “I say let Florida start from the beginning. Let them redo it. I mean, we’re talking about reorganizing the country here.”
Bill Porter of Capitol Heights agreed that the U.S. Supreme Court should have sent the case back to Florida’s high court. However, he said the state Supreme Court should have set a standard for a recount much earlier in the game.
“I guess we learned from this,” he said as he stood outside the Farragut North Metro station. “There will probably be new laws coming out of this real soon.”
Rondell Rose, an artist from Northwest who spent yesterday afternoon selling anti-Bush memorabilia outside Farragut North, said the court should have allowed a full recount of the ballots. “The Court could have at the very least let the people’s vote get counted,” he said.
Several citizens saw a need to review and repair election equipment and procedures, not only in Florida but across the nation. The most-frequent criticisms were of the Electoral College system.
Electors are chosen by popular votes in each state. Each state gets one electoral vote for each of its senators and representatives in Congress.
Mr. Gore won the popular vote, but Mr. Bush won Florida for a majority of the electoral votes.
Some residents said the system undermines the importance of individual votes.
“It seems meaningless to have a popular vote if we are going to depend on the Electoral College,” said William L. Bradford, who lives in the District and works in Montgomery County.
“I’ve always voted, but it makes me wonder why I should keep voting. My wife said, after all this, it would have taken less time to have a revote in Florida,” Mr. Bradford said.
“I don’t see how they can announce a president when all the votes haven’t been counted,” said Willie Allen Jr., 80, of Landover. “They need to let the man that gets the popular vote be the president.”
And, of course, people had plenty to say about the problems with the Florida ballots.
“If hundreds of people are making the same mistake, it’s not a mistake, it’s a problem,” said Stephanie Kelly, 18, a supervisor at a Rockville Starbucks.
Nonetheless, Ms. Kelly said, “Gore is being a baby he needs to just stop. No matter who wins, they won’t get a second term. What needs to be the first priority is to fix the problem.”
“Gore should have backed out a long time ago,” said Martin Barylski, 73, of Rockville. “The whole business is a farce. This business of what a voter intended is stupid. Dimples don’t count… . We need a national standard.”
Election results were questionable in states other than Florida, said retired school superintendent Ed Garlitz, 65, of Pittsburgh.
“We have reason to look at a lot of statistics in a lot of states, not just Florida,” Mr. Garlitz said. “Did you know that 95 percent of the registered voters in Detroit voted? That’s a modern miracle.”
“I feel for both candidates, but maybe this is an indicator that there should be a third party,” said Mary Kress, 52, of Waldorf, Md.
Although it would be expensive, Mrs. Kress said, voting should be standardized in every county and state across the country. “If money is going to be poured into anything, this is where it should be,” Mrs. Kress said.
“I wish Virginia would go back to paying poll taxes to vote,” said Mr. Mountcastle, complaining that he saw people going to the polls who couldn’t even read.
Peter Wilkins, a businessman who travels to Washington every two weeks, said even though the process has been “crazy,” a recount should have been completed.
“It’s the basic principle of having every vote count,” Mr. Wilkins said. “But despite everything, the system actually did work in the end. It produced a president in time.”