Election depends on honesty

At about 10 p.m. on election night, when Florida was taken out of the Gore fold and returned to the netherworld of the too close to call states, my heart sank. Being Irish-Catholic and a Democrat, a cocktail which often generates a potent sense of pessimism, I knew it was over. Still, I suffered in silence until the networks gave Florida to Bush and declared him our new president, at about 2:20 a.m. Soon, however, and to my amusement, and doubtless to the amazement of much of America, Florida was soon put back into play, and Bush was deprived of his coronation. As I write this, Bush maintains the slimmest of leads over Gore in Florida, and there is little indication that this matter will be resolved soon. We have no president-elect.

By now, of course, the basic story has been widely reported. Bush more likely than not will win Florida after the recount is completed, and will therefore receive that state’s 25 electoral votes, reaching the magic 270 figure and the presidency. Gore, on the other hand, won the popular vote in the country as a whole, and has legitimate doubts about Bush’s claim to Florida, inasmuch as there have been reports of some serious voting irregularities. For instance, a tricky ballot in Palm Beach County – a Democratic enclave – may have cost the vice president upwards of 20,000 votes. The story has only grown more complex as the days go on.

Obviously, something has gone awry. The fair thing to do would be to allow every voter from Palm Beach County who had voted Nov. 7 to vote again. There is no way the will of the voters in that county was exercised on Election Day – of this there can be little doubt, regardless of one’s party affiliation. The Bush campaign rejects this, as expected.

There is no doubt that both Bush and Gore worked extremely hard to win the presidency. The race itself lasted more than a year; political foundations were laid long before that. The presidency is and was the ultimate goal for the two of them, and each has it so close at hand. Quitting now would be personally and professionally disastrous with so much at stake and still so much up in the air. Certainly Gore has the popular vote on his side, as well as the hope, however dim, of a Florida miracle; Bush has the Constitution, which is certainly preferable in this case.

Common sense tells me Florida went for Gore. If only three out of every 200 of those spoiled ballots were intended to be votes for Gore, the vice president would overtake Bush. With this in mind, it is not only possible but also likely that more Florida voters than not preferred Gore to Bush. Still, unless the courts intercede, Bush will probably take Florida and the presidency. I find it appalling that the will of the people will not be carried out. No wonder people are so disdainful of all things political.

The letter of the law, the Bushies rightly claim, provides them with their victory, irrespective of the 20,000 or more ballots that would put Gore over the top. However intellectually incurious Bush is, even he must realize that more Floridians, and Americans as well, want Gore as their next president than him. Still, the safe bet is on the Texas governor and not Gore at this point. I find this analogous to an everyday situation that most people have probably experienced at some point in their life: when a cashier accidentally gives you too much change – for instance, if you pay with a $10 bill but receive change for a $20 bill. You then have more money than you had before, even though it is not your money. Some people return the money when they realize a mistake was made, while others feel as though they are entitled to the money, since it was the cashier’s mistake and not their own. Personal honesty is the difference.

Having logged many hours as a cashier, I do know one thing: the cashier always has to pay the difference in the end.

-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs.

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