'Year of the Dimpled Chad' Draws to a Close
by Ari Armstrong, December 12, 2000
Thank God it's over.
I know, we've thought it's been over several times during the last five weeks, but this time it looks like Gore finally has reached the end of his political rope. As I write, the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled against the recount of ambiguous ballots. (See http://www.foxnews.com/fn99/election_night/121200/opinion_list.sml.)
I didn't vote for either Bush or Gore. I proudly voted for Libertarian Harry Browne. I keep telling myself that I shouldn't care who wins. Yet I'm relieved that Bush is finally in. Don't get me wrong: I still think "Dubya" might threaten our liberties (see http://www.freecolorado.com/2000/11/afraid.html). However, this election came down to one crucial decision, the decision regarding whether to count:
THE DIMPLED CHAD.
Yes, despite all the self-righteous rhetoric, the Gore camp tried to invalidate Republican votes, first from the military and then from absentee voters. But those cases never carried much weight, and they were never as important as the issue of counting non-displaced chads.
"Dimpled chads" are non-votes. I don't care if a few Florida voters intended to vote for Gore but couldn't figure out how to punch out the appropriate piece of paper. Voting with a punch-card ballot is a trivial affair. Millions of Americans have used such ballots successfully. If the chad is not removed from its hole, then no vote has been cast, and no intention can be determined.
Though it may surprise egomaniac Al Gore, more than a few Americans believed both major-party candidates to be complete morons, undeserving of the highest political office of the land. Some voters simply chose not to vote for either. Some voters came close to voting for one candidate or the other, but then pulled back in disgust. Then, the "dimpled chad" was an intended non-vote. In addition, a "dimpled chad" could as easily have been caused by the counting machines or by over-zealous Democratic counters.
So I'm happy now not because Bush (finally) won, but because somebody finally had enough sense to refuse to count votes which were in fact never cast. The alternative would have been unbearable: a political system in which the rulers provide the illusion of popular participation, yet cast aside the actual vote in favor of the divined "intent" of the voters -- decided, of course, by the political elite.
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I'm quite proud to have published David Bryant's article yesterday, which predicted a split Supreme Court ruling overturning the Florida Court's decision and ending the count of "dimpled chads." Bryant missed a few of the details, but he correctly called the main decision.
I have seen no better background on the subject than what Bryant provides in his article. See http://www.freecolorado.com/2000/12/florida.html.
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The Democratic propaganda machine is simply extraordinary. The Democrats can say with a straight face that they want to "count every vote" -- even as they attempt to toss out Republican votes.
Such propaganda is comprehensible when one considers the postmodern intellectual poison coursing through the veins of modern leftists. To the postmodern, words are not tools for conveying truth. Rather, words are weapons used to gain political power. (See http://www.freecolorado.com/2000/03/postmodernism.html.) Notice the frequency with which Democrats attack personalities -- even as they decry the "politics of personal destruction."
It's as if Democrats were psychic: as soon as the spin-meisters coin a catchy phrase, every Democrat in the nation repeats that phrase religiously. It reminds me of a B-grade zombie movie. With Gore's attempted coup d'etat, the first phrase was "the will of the people." Supposedly, butterfly ballots and dimpled chads were obstructing this "will." I like to imagine (but don't really believe) it's more than coincidence that this phrase went out of fashion after I published an article critical of it (http://www.freecolorado.com/2000/11/will.html).
Along with the rise of the phrase, "count every vote" (as if "dimpled chads" were somehow votes), came talk about the "rights of voters." However, voting for U.S. president is a privilege granted by state legislatures, not a right at all.
For the benefit of our Constitutionally-challenged friends, I'll quote Article II, Section 1:
Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress...
If state legislatures want to establish a popular voting system, fine. If they want to flip a coin or play cards, that too is permissible by law. There is no "right" to vote for president. Indeed, in his research David Bryant found that some state legislatures chose electors directly during their first several decades. And indeed this practice is consistent with American federalism.
I will make an even stronger claim: there is no "right" to vote at all. At least, voting cannot be considered a fundamental human right along with the rights of property, free speech, free exercise of religion, and self-defense. It's conceivable that a form of government could protect every human right and yet not incorporate any form of popular voting. Mob rule is hardly synonymous with a system of rights. However, so long as we live in a federalist system in which at least some officials are popularly elected, we can reasonably say that one (qualified) person has a "right" to vote as much as the next person. (E.g., if the government arbitrarily disallowed votes by black people, we would reasonably claim that to be a violation of "rights.") It is important, though, that we recognize a distinction between voting and fundamental human rights.
Along those lines, the allegations I find most disturbing regarding the elections in Florida are claims that police forces deterred black people from voting in some areas. If such allegations have any substance, the situation is shameful and a disgrace. I hope that matter is investigated thoroughly. Obviously it's too late for any revoting at this time, but certainly criminal charges could be brought if warranted.
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If we're going to continue holding popular elections for president -- as I expect we will -- can we please buy some modern voting equipment? As bad as Gore's "dimpled chad" argument is, it does seem like the punch-card machinery should be given a proper burial. Both machine and hand counts introduce the potential for the disruption of "chads."
While we're at it, could the respective state legislatures -- especially the one in Florida -- please update their election laws? The entire Florida fiasco could have been prevented with better equipment and clear laws.
One suggestion I doubt catches on, but which is pretty funny, was offered by R.W. Bradford in the January 2001 edition of Liberty Magazine:
I suggest that Congress repeal the anti-literacy test provision of the Voting Rights Act so that states can enact simple measures to insure that the demented and moronic do not determine the fate of the republic. Nothing too intellectually taxing, of course. Perhaps only two questions, along the lines of these:
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At least Liberty has skipped ahead into the (real) new millennium despite the botched presidential elections this year. I have to admit the roller coaster was emotional for me. For a while, after the Florida Court's decision to revive the recounts of "dimpled chads," I was genuinely fearful that the elections would result in small-scale violence.
But now I can relax and enjoy the next four years of Bush-bashing. I agree with commentators like Harry Browne and David Bryant that the election, as painful as it has been, has a very bright silver lining. It reminded people that politicians often care more about personal power than the well-being of the nation. It reminded people that we live in a Constitutional, federalist republic, not a democracy -- Hillary be damned. Most important, the election provided proof for a new generation that we can't just take our way of life as a given -- individuals have to step up and fight for what's right.