Debate Over Election Process Takes Center Stage

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:27pm EDT

( - The presidential election process may not be perfect, but it beats the alternatives in terms of Constitutional law, fairness, and protection against fraud, said political analysts following the current dilemma in Florida, where confusion over the so-called "butterfly" ballot in Palm Beach County has triggered a hand recount.

Opting to allow the federal government to mandate a uniform ballot nationwide may seem a sound plan but would infringe on state rights and violate the U.S. Constitution, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute.

That requirement, simple as it may sound, could also lead to further federal involvement with the individual states' laws guiding the selection of electors and creation of the voting ballots, he explained.

"That would be a big departure from Congress' long provision for allowing states to have control over how their own electors are chosen and ballots are designed," Samples said. "You really have to ask yourself what are the advantages."

Besides, American Policy Center President Tom DeWeese said, analysis of the current battle for the presidency should not be focused so much on examining the election system for Constitutional ineptitude as on exposing any political corruption and unethical attempts to legislate via the judicial branch.

Democratic campaign officials for Al Gore have said their intent in pursuing hand counts was to "let the will of the people" prevail and uphold the Constitution, while Republicans for George W. Bush have adopted more of a "wait and see" attitude, Samples said, though neither party has completely ruled out the possibility of a court battle for the presidency.

"I think it really has come down to the closeness of the [the election] and the scruples of the Democrats and whether they ever abide by the law," DeWeese said, adding that the Electoral College irrefutably offers those living in the less populous states the fairest method of ensuring their voices are equally represented in elections.

If the Electoral College was disbanded, he said, and the president was selected solely by popular vote, residents in highly populated states such as Florida, California, and Texas would be recognized as the true deciders in elections, and those in areas like North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Alabama would be ignored.

Mail-in ballot requirements like those in Oregon create challenges, DeWeese continued, in terms of delayed voter counts and increased concerns with fraud, and the Internet has not yet progressed to the point of guaranteeing security to be considered a viable alternative to the present election process.

Mandating electronic balloting in each voting precinct is also unacceptable, he said, explaining that even though it's the most accurate tabulation method, the federal government should still refrain from intervening in state's rights.

"If I was going to change anything, it might be to hold elections on the weekend," he said, recounting a 1989 experience in Panama in which many of the 90-percent of eligible voters who participated in that event spent their weekend waiting in line for hours to cast their ballots.

Even with everyone in Panama watching, however - as evidenced by the high voter turnout - the election still produced fraudulent returns, DeWeese said, as constituents were prevented from selecting their candidates of choice on several occasions.

"Every single candidate had [his or her] own ballot. There were something like 16 ballots [and] they didn't deliver all the opposition ballots," he said. "It's not near as easy [to commit voter fraud] here because we have the single ballot but it has happened in this country, and ... the Constitution and the state laws," as written, are the best defense against such incidents.

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