Thursday, October 28, 2004

Let's have 2000 all over again!

All year long now, it seems, people have said they hope the 2004 U.S. presidential election won't repeat the 2000 election. They don't care who wins - they just want whoever it is to get a decisive victory.

Does that make any sense? Why the hurry?

We already know we'll have the same President until January, no matter what happens in the election. There's no need for the whole country to break out in a cold sweat, just because the news networks can't tell us who won before we put our kids to bed. We get three months between the election and the inaugural. That gives us more than enough time to count all the votes carefully.

Every political party campaigns to get out the vote, telling us each and every vote is important. If that's what we really believe, shouldn't we make sure we get an accurate count of each and every vote? Will it really hurt us to wait a few days, or a few weeks, to learn who won? For that matter, why not stretch out the election itself to cover several days? Include the weekend, so more people can vote without missing work.

We claim to value hard work. Let's value the votes of the people who do that work.

While we're at it, why not save the counting for after all polls have closed? That's right, wait until every polling place, everywhere in the country, is closed. And let's quit doing exit polls, too. Then nobody will have any excuse to stay home because the news people said the election was already over.

Are these radical ideas? Not really, and I'm certainly not the first to propose any of them. They're different from the way we've always done things, but they're not revolutionary. They wouldn't turn our civilization upside down, just bring us more into line with what we claim our values are.

Sadly, change often requires pain for motivation. That's why I hope the 2004 election will be at least as confusing and controversial as the 2000 election.

Maybe that would spur some real election reforms, not just the halfway measures we've seen so far.