Jackson County Opinions...

November 15, 2000



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
November 15, 2000

Let Every Candidate Have A Re-Vote
I'm with the Rev. Jesse Jackson's friends in Palm Beach County. They should get to vote again.
From my viewpoint, the 2000 campaign was the most exciting ever, but the demand for a re-vote in Florida's most screwed-up county could usher in something to add even more interest.
A columnist for the Palm Beach Post admits that Palm Beach County botched the election. Noting that golfers get mulligans, he proposes that Palm Beach be given another chance and promises to do it right.
I agree. But that doesn't go far enough. The new Congress, instead of worrying about doing away with the Electoral College, should pass a constitutional amendment to be forwarded to the states for ratification that allows certain vote recounts at the discretion of the political parties.
I propose that the losing party in any presidential election be allowed to order a re-vote in any two counties in the nation.
This option should be extended down to local elections. Candidates for congressional seats should be able to order a revote in one county of their choice; candidates for state Senate should have the same option, while candidates running for the state house or a county jurisdiction ought to be able to demand a re-vote in the precinct of their choice.
One benefit of this proposition would be to extend the excitement of elections another three or four weeks, but the main purpose is to boost the economy. Just imagine how many dollars would be poured into Palm Beach County in the event of a second election. It would be phenomenal.
Look at the Bell-Tolbert election. Tolbert could demand a re-vote in Minish District and if he could turn 28 votes, would take the election.
To be fair, the candidate seeking the second round of voting would have to pay all the associated costs, including the printing of ballots and payment of labor to oversee the voting and to count the votes. Additionally, a second round of voting would be restricted to just those who cast ballots the first time around.
Also, while the national Democratic Party would likely opt for a recount in Palm Beach County, the GOP could decide to use its recount option in a completely different state and election. The GOP might choose to re-run the Senate race in Dekalb County, Georgia, or a House race in a county in another state where it suffered a narrow defeat.
This amendment would return some sporting value to elections, providing the opportunity, so to speak, for second-half comebacks or fourth-quarter rallies. It would provide lengthened employment for political consultants, boost revenue of media companies, bring more profit to printers of direct mail pieces and yard signs and give the electronic media a second chance to project winners.
It would be an appropriately American thing to do. As a nation, we believe in second chances. We love to watch the losing team make a last-minute comeback. We enjoy the drama and excitement.
The Palm Beach Amendment would add some of that kind of excitement to America's favorite pastime - politics.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
November 15, 2000

Time for recreation overhaul
With all the other major issues floating around in Jackson County, the local recreation program has long been flying under radar.
Too long, as it turns out. Last week, three county recreation department employees were sacked in a shakeup over allegations of computer gambling at the department. Subsequently, county leaders were astonished to discover the level of disarray in the department.
They shouldn't have been surprised. This situation has been building for a long time and was evident to many parents with kids in the program.
Several years ago, the county had a recreation board that oversaw the recreation programs. But that board pitched a tantrum when this newspaper began covering their monthly meetings and put itself out of business. That left the recreation program with no real oversight from anyone at the county.
But those who have kids in the program have seen just how loose the operation had become. Schedules were made to suit everyone but the kids involved; equipment was often lacking; referees and umpires often didn't show up for games; the physical facilities weren't kept up-to-date as they should have been; games were often played late on school nights to the dismay of parents and teachers.
All of that led to a lot of grumbling by parents, but no one stepped forward to make county leaders aware of the depth of problems.
So now that these problems are being discussed, it's time for county leaders to get a handle on the recreation program. That will be difficult considering the impending transition to a new board of commissioners, but it is imperative that county leaders take a strong hand in reshaping that department.
Another factor in this issue is the county schools. Since many of the facilities used by the recreation program are school facilities, a greater level of coordination is needed. Not only that, but recreation programs should end at a reasonable time on school nights. School officials should certainly take a stronger voice in that issue than they have in the past.
Now is the opportune time to overhaul the county's recreation department and to shape it into a strong program. But that will also require an increase in oversight and accountability on the part of county leaders.
It's about time.

 

 

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
November 15, 2000

2000 election a repeat of 1876
OK, history buffs, what past presidential election is similar to this year's confusing race? If you said 1876, you would be right, but I know you read the headline over this article for the answer.
All of which says this: Don't sweat the eventual outcome of this year's race. The Republic will stand with Al or Dubya. In another 100 years, no one will remember all the recounts. Like that 1876 presidential contest, this year's outcome will just be a footnote to history. How many of you can name who was elected in 1876? Didn't think so.
But if history repeats itself, then it might be instructive to brush up a little on that distant past for a clue as to what will happen next.
In 1876, Democrats nominated Samuel Tilden, a wealthy New York lawyer for president. Tilden had become famous for fighting the infamous "Boss Tweed" in New York.
Republicans were split about whom to nominate as their standard-bearer, but finally settled on Rutherford B. Hayes.
When the votes were counted, Tilden had a plurality by 250,000 votes over Hayes. Tilden also had 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 166.
But there was a major problem: In three Southern states, Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, the outcome was in dispute. Reconstruction in the South was still going on in those states under a Republican administration. There were charges and counter charges of corruption and irregularities in the voting process. Both parties claimed victory.
When those states' electors met, both parties sent returns to Washington. But when Congress opened the votes, which party should it recognize as having won those states?
Making that election even more difficult was this: The Constitution says that the President of the Senate should open the votes in the presence of the House and Senate, but it does not say who should count the ballots. The President of the Senate was a Republican, the House was majority Democrat. Whomever counted the ballots would obviously favor their own party.
To get around that issue, Congress created a special commission of 15 members - five from each branch of Congress and the five Supreme Court justices. Eight of the 15 were Republicans and even without looking at those three states, the commission gave the election to Hayes.
But there was a deal in that outcome that many didn't know about. Hayes had agreed to remove the last federal troops from those three states and to pump a lot of federal aid money into the South for flood control, railroads, harbors, etc.
In effect, Hayes ended Reconstruction in the South. In the ensuing years, the civil rights won by blacks following the Civil War were slowly reduced. Republicans lost interest in that issue and recognized that the South was solid Democrat. So it would remain for nearly 100 years.
***
If history is any indication, here's one possibility of what might happen this year: Whatever the certified outcome of Florida's vote, it will likely be challenged in the courts. On December 18, when state electors transmit their votes to Washington, Florida may be absent, meaning that neither candidate has a majority of electoral votes.
Thus, Congress may once again have to decide the outcome, either as a vote of the House, or from another special commission similar to the one in 1876.
If you want to see what would happen if no one is selected for president by January 20, read Section 3 of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
***
With this election up in the air, there's a lot of talk about doing away with the Electoral system for choosing a president. Actually, the electoral system was a compromise between large and small states when the Constitution was drafted. Many at the time expected that the larger states would act as a nomination group and that no one individual would get a majority of electoral votes. Hence, the decision would fall to the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote, to decide who would be president.
The history lesson is this: We were founded as a Republic, not a Democracy. The Electoral system has good and bad points, but it has served us well for over 200 years. Changing it because of this one election would be a mistake.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Commerce News
November 15, 2000

If The Numbers Fail, Gore Should Concede
As fascinating as the 2000 presidential election is, voters are wearying of the political jockeying, particularly in Florida, that seems destined to delay the official election results for weeks.
There are two major issues. The closeness of the race dictates a recount, and, fortunately, Florida law required just that. It appears that George W. Bush's victory in Florida stands, though by the slimmest of margins.
The other issue, or at least the main one, is the ballot in Palm Beach County, FL, where the Gore campaign insists that confusion among the elderly may have cost him the state ­ and thus the election.
Gore may be right there. If 19,000 ballots from a heavily Democratic county were spoiled, it is reasonable to conclude that it might have cost Gore the state. But does that entitle the Democratic nominee to any extraordinary relief? No, it does not.
It is up to voters to mark their ballots correctly or, when they don't, to seek another ballot and to ask poll workers for assistance. Any voter who marked a ballot twice for president has no reason to expect that ballot to be counted.
The election process is far from perfect. At every major election, there are charges of abuse, and those charges are generally checked out by election officials. In any election, ballots are spoiled for one reason or another. That is part of the process.
While it is unfortunate that the close vote in Florida may have been determined by those whose ballots were cast out, the hue and cry from the losing side is reminiscent of that from a baseball team that, when losing 22-21, blames the loss on an umpire's call in the ninth inning. The Gore campaign had a fair chance. It just fell short.
Florida wasn't the only state where spoiled ballots might have made a difference. The races were extremely close in New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and California.
It is hard to imagine a scenario where Gore could credibly claim an election victory. It is much easier to see how a protracted court battle could leave America in chaos. Under the method provided by the U.S. Constitution for electing presidents, the Gore-Lieberman campaign came in second. Once the recounts are completed and the results certified by the state, Gore should concede Florida and the election to Bush and let the country move on. It was an exciting, close and interesting election, but (at least at this point) the numbers say the new president will be George W. Bush.


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