The pollsters never run out of questions. If they did, they would be out of a job. The most recent questions center over who the public thinks is to blame for the mess in Florida. The questions are phrased a bit differently, but basically they boil down to this: who's to blame? Is it the media? The lawyers? The parties? The locals or the national party gurus?
In some ways the answer could well be: all of the above.
But really this misses the mark. There's no doubt that the major networks announced the raw data too early, but this isn't the first major election where the press has announced early. In 1980, Reagan had been declared the winner before I even got off work here in Arizona. There's no doubt about the parties' wanting to win. No major party deliberately goes in to lose. (Even third parties hope to gain something like funding.) Lawyers, rather like vultures, do not circle the carcass until there is one, and the carcass in this case is the narrow margin that makes fighting for victory a true temptation (and a trial lawyer's dream).
Yet the question of who's to blame ... and the answer ... seems to have evaded general public notice because of the volcanic nature of the bruhaha brewing in Florida. You see, I would put it this way:
Who's to blame?
THE PEOPLE WHO DID NOT VOTE!
If you look at the percentage of registered voters who voted, county by county in the State of Florida, it is a good turnout, but just not good enough. My state, Arizona, has fifteen counties and eight electoral votes. Florida, which is not as large as Arizona, has 67 counties and 25 electoral votes. Florida has so much variety in its counties that voter turnout in a close race was a known essential months in advance. It was very well known that Florida's 25 electoral votes were a big factor in the presidential race.
Notwithstanding, if you look at Florida county by county, you will see one in the 80-percentile range, and a couple in the 50-percentile range, with most counties in the 60-to-70-percentile range, for a statewide total of 70.1 percent of registered voters who actually cast a ballot.
If most, or all, of Florida's counties had achieved a 75% to 80% turnout of all registered voters, it is likely the present mess would not be happening.
Seventy-five percent turnout, or more, is high in any election, but should we expect less?
Pollsters had declared for weeks prior to election day that this would be a close race. With that much forewarning, there is just no excuse for less than a 72-75% turnout in every county. This places the blame for the closeness of the race on the voters who didn't vote because they apparently didn't care who won.
The old excuse "well I heard it was all over so I went home" doesn't hold water even with the Florida panhandle's Central Time Zone difference, because the first erroneous result wasn't aired until 10 to 15 minutes prior to the closing of the polls. If so, anyone intending to vote would have to be in line, so did any precinct workers notice a mass exodus of potential voters? If there was, did anyone videotape it? Any news is news during this debacle. It has been estimated that the early call by the networks cost George W. Bush about 10,000 votes. In that case, there are 10,000 Republicans who need an education in the basics of American government and media error. No whining!
President Clinton, in his brief statement to the press, said "from this day forward, no American can say 'my vote doesn't count'."
You know it's a strange day in America when this conservative has to conclude that President Clinton told the nation the absolute truth.
Registered didn't-voters: this show, this farce, this
spectacle, is all yours!
Join the conversation about the election...
© Dorothy Anne Seese, 2000
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View expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Political USA.