WHEN I SPOKE AT THE LEADERSHIP RETREAT OF SANDIA NATIONAL LABS earlier this week, I stated that while I was a guy who gravitated towards the pragmatic rather than the ideological and towards the sensible rather than the extreme, I felt that it was best to do whatever I could to get both the Republican Party and Democratic Party back to solutions-oriented thinking and work.
But before we get back to work, there really are some very odd things going on with our democracy.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who keeps pretending really, really hard not to be interested in higher office, is so traumatized by the fact that he failed to deliver his state to the Dems that the running joke is that he is holed up in a room somewhere in Santa Fe personally counting one-by-one the provisional votes that might turn New Mexico back to blue from red. Whether one is a Democrat or Republican, one must simply be astonished by the ability of a single governor with off-the-chart political ambitions to distort an election process to promote their own ends.
I am not one who believes that members of Congress have very good chances of successful White House runs and think that Governors make better candidates than Senators. But Bill Richardson is off my list.
I know that many see Jeb Bush’s and former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s behavior during the last election in the same light — and I agree. But it’s all wrong — on both sides of the aisle.
What is impressive to me is that surfer-activist Donna Frye is still leading in her write-in campaign to become the next Mayor of San Diego, one of the nation’s largest cities. The motto on the home page of San Diego’s official website reads: “The Most Efficiently Run Big City in California.”
Well, they are still counting the ballots, perhaps efficiently, but what is clear is that in contrast to Bill Richardson making his vote counting about him and his future, the vote counting in San Diego is truly about democracy.
124 judges just got recused “from hearing a lawsuit attempting to block write-in candidate Councilwoman Donna Frye from becoming mayor” by the presiding judge of San Diego’s Superior Court. It’s a fascinating race, and will be good for democracy whether she ultimately wins or not if that determination is made by the number of votes counted rather than through legal challenges.
So far, she is leading in a three way race by 114 votes — but there are approximately 180,000 ballots left to count.
Bill Richardson, stop counting New Mexico’s ballots — and go help in San Diego. That might help revive your presidential aspirations.
But on other fronts, I have been looking at the still bubbling question of bad voting machines and potential voter fraud. The most fair-minded and accurate website I have found this far (thanks to TK) is here.
I do not subscribe to the notion that the outcome of the presidential election is contestable — though many others in the blogosphere want to make that case. What I do think is that there are some important discrepancies in voter turnout and recorded votes that don’t make sense; some machines whose results are completely out of whack with the number of voters who showed and no paper trail to sort out; and other questions that deserve investigation.
These matters deserve investigation regardless of the issue of who won the election. Treating each vote as a precious one is the only way that this democracy is going to believe in itself. We have evolved into a “margin of error” democracy where the margin’s band is irresponsibly wide.
Just consider these Florida vote count tallies:
Collier County
Voter Turnout was 127,409
128,352 votes were cast for president
Duval County
Voter Turnout was 379,257
379,614 votes were cast for president
Glades County
Voter Turnout was 3,446
4,188 votes were cast for president
Highlands County
Voter Turnout was 33,996
41,491 votes were cast for president
Lake County
Voter Turnout was 123,751
123,938 votes were cast for president
Miami Dade County
Voter Turnout was 716,574
768,553 votes were cast for president
Okaloosa County
Voter Turnout was 89,485
89,707 votes were cast for president
Orange County
Voter Turnout was 386,104
387,752 votes were cast for president
Osceola County
Voter Turnout was 63,589
82,178 votes were cast for president
Leon County
Voter Turnout was 136229
136,314 votes were cast for president
Palm Beach County
Voter Turnout was 452,061
542,835 votes were cast for president
Volusia County
Voter Turnout was 209,052
228,358 votes were cast for president
Yesterday, the Washington Post‘s Manuel Roig-Franzia and Dan Keating scorned those in the blogosphere for generating conspiracy theories about voter fraud. What disturbed me about their article is that these writers never even consider the question of whether such questions about fraud in some county and state outcomes might be valid.
While my own assessment leads me to believe that whatever fraud occurred out there is not great enough to unseat President Bush, the issue of fraud and machine malfuction remains vital and should be disconnected from the political agendas of people and journalists investigating.
The Post‘s Cynthia Webb does a nice job today of capturing the importance of blog commentary in a ‘fair and balanced’ discussion of election controversies.
But also today in the Post, Donna Britt, hits the ball out of the park in her outrage that America is apathetic about this debate. I agree with her.
Let’s fix these problems well before the next presidential election.
— Steve Clemons