Four years later and still the same story

We were spectators to Tuesday’s presidential election.

From one of the reddest of the red states, we couldn’t help but watch our supposedly color-coded nation manifest itself with almost clockwork precision.

Everyone was determined to avoid the long, drawn-out ordeal of 2000.

Pollsters determined that a significant portion of Americans would view election of the “other guy” as illegitimate, and herein lies the problem. If opposition eternally broods about a “stolen election,” this year’s results seem poised to repeat themselves.

Admittedly, I wanted Bush to lose. But more than that, I wanted a convincing election free of apparent attempts to deny citizens the franchise.

What’s to blame for this? Is it court intervention in Ohio? After all, controversial decisions often polarize the public. However, more than courts undermined this election. In some ways, the court decisions about Ohio were attempts to clean up more troubling actions.

“Ohio is the new Florida,” said pundits regarding the court rulings even before Tuesday night.

As in 2000, a narrow victory in one state pushed Bush over the edge to victory. Like Florida four years ago, Ohio’s secretary of state is a staunch Bush supporter. Secretary Blackwell issued several roadblocks to voting less than 45 days before the election. Sept. 16 is when Blackwell declared that those who show up to the wrong precinct-even in the correct county-will be forbidden from making even a provisional ballot.

As a corollary, partisans could “monitor” polling places and challenge voters’ status.

This rule, struck by the Ohio District Court before being reinstated by the Court of Appeals, didn’t get a full and considered round of judicial review. Justice Stevens, writing Tuesday morning, said that the claims were “undoubtedly serious,” that there was essentially no time left to make a decision. Opponents of vote monitors alleged that Republicans would harass and intimidate voters, particularly racial minorities known to favor Democrats.

In a separate fight, an Ohio court barely issued an order Tuesday to allow people who didn’t receive an absentee ballot to vote with provisional ballots in person at their precinct.

Amazingly, Blackwell had issued a nonpublic memorandum forbidding such votes.

Prior to these two controversies, Ohio incorrectly implied that ex-felons were ineligible to vote, only to retract the characterization immediately prior to the registration deadline.

Even more remarkably, Blackwell announced days before the deadline that all voter registrations not on 80-pound cardstock would be voided. Public outcry triggered reversal of this procedure.

At any rate, it’s impossible to conclude that Blackwell was not in favor of Bush in a big way. It seems obvious he pushed this agenda by attacking citizen’s right to vote.

Monitors and other Ohio difficulties might have tilted the Ohio election and secured the incredibly narrow Bush win. When sensible and uniform rules aren’t established in advance, an election-the supposed snapshot of the people’s will-can’t be retrieved from the artifacts of voting. A thousand punch cards and a million electronic blips won’t tell us how the vote would have turned out under different rules. Bush might have legitimately won, but we’ll never know.

Due to partisan maneuvers, it seems I’ll find this election tainted. I’ll try, as other liberals should, not to hold this against the president.

Even though we deserved better, my hostility is aimed at the irregularities themselves, not the man who apparently benefited from them.

If we fixate on the candidates in this questionable election, we imply that corruption is defensible -when it favors “our” candidate. [email protected]