Let the unofficial Fla. recount proceed

Inevitable: Since Florida allows it and since various groups are doing it, let the count be rigorous.

January 08, 2001

CRITICS OF THE recounting now under way in Florida worry that cynicism, already dogging the electorate, could deepen or that the legitimacy of George W. Bush's election will be undermined.

Not so. The concerns about naysaying may be understandable, but most people know this isn't an effort to get Mr. Bush to step down. They know the election's over.

Now, the focus is on doing some good that will prevent a repeat of the 2000 election farce. If properly conducted, a recount could should show precisely how flawed the Florida election system is, and produce more urgency for reform throughout the nation.

At least one Florida newspaper has hired an accounting firm to do the counting. The firm's results, not the results of reporters, will be published. That seems prudent.

The accounting firm's findings will be reported in several forms, based on various standards for judging a ballot. If dimpled chads are counted, for example, the outcome would be so many votes for Mr. Gore, so many for President-elect George W. Bush; if not, the results would be different; and so on.

People will be able to reach their own conclusions about what was miscounted, undercounted or overcounted. The element of subjectivity will be clarion clear.

The process could make it easier to see why the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the official recount. Conversely, it might further expose the court's decision as arbitrary or even ridiculous. Either way, it will make it easier to map out a plan to ensure in 2004 that the system makes every vote count.

Further advantage from the count will come in simply acknowledging, even applauding, the public's interest in this whole issue. Interest in elections is a good thing, and when the outcome is as close as this one was, that interest becomes even more essential.

Finally, suppose someone decreed that no one would be allowed to review these ballots. Suppose the ballots were locked away in some warehouse like the Ark of the Covenant was at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

That decision wouldn't stand -- particularly since the president-elect's brother is Florida's governor. It would make this election look even more like something you see in the Third World, where power and privilege trample fairness at every turn.

Let the recount critics relax. The American people know what weight to give this exercise. And everyone should feel better once we get answers to the questions that still linger about what really happened on Nov. 7, 2000.

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