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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

Election intervention: United Nations, others must observe U.S. process

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer


Friday, October 15, 2004

One of the most critical democratic elections in years is approaching quickly. Amid doubts about legitimacy, corruption and voter disenfranchisement, the European Union and the United Nations will be monitoring the crucial election to prove that democracy can work.

All the more disturbing is that these elections aren't taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan, or even Russia, but right here in the United States.

How is it that the beacon of democracy in the world, the defender of liberty and the champion of freedom can possibly need the United Nations and the European Union to monitor their elections? The short answer: Florida in the 2000 election. The longer answer, however, is much more compelling.

Since the European Union and the United Nations announced that they would be monitoring the upcoming elections in the United States, the level of indignation amongst the conservative press has been palpable.

How dare the rest of the world question America's ability to hold fair elections? America is the most successful democracy in the world, but it hasn't always been fair.

Less than 50 years ago, African Americans in the South were being disenfranchised in record numbers. Less than a century ago, women didn't have the right to vote. But of course, America is a country that has learned from its past transgressions and can now truly stand by its assertion that all elections are free and fair, right?

Not exactly. Florida provides startling evidence that elections can still be tampered with and results manipulated. Is this reason enough to have our elections officially monitored by representatives from Europe and the rest of the world? Perhaps not, but the reasons behind the complaints in Florida are not entirely unfounded.

Most Americans don't know the true story of Florida in 2000, yet many believe it couldn't happen again -- certainly not in the America of Howard Dean and Michael Moore. Before the elections in 2000, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush authorized the transfer of voter registration monitoring to a private company, the first such authorization in the history of the United States.

The company, owned by prominent Republican contributors, produced a list of approximately 8,000 names of convicted felons to be expunged from the voter roles.

For some reason, this list wasn't enough for Katherine Harris, then secretary of the state of Florida and, coincidentally, chairperson of the George W. Bush election campaign.

That list was expanded to include those people who shared a birthday with a convicted felon. The number increased to nearly 18,000 names, but still, it wasn't enough. Finally, all those people who shared the same surname with the original 8,000 felons were added.

Finally, Harris had found a number she could live with. Nearly 55,000 Floridians were cut from the voter registration rolls and denied the right to vote.

Independent analysis of the list following the recount in Florida found that nearly 50,000 of those on the voter rolls had been illegally disenfranchised. President Bush won Florida by the official count of 547 votes.

Has this been reported in the press? Has the Bush administration in Florida or Harris apologized for this grave injustice? Of course, the answer is no. And of course, that's why Democrats have been screaming for a new system.

Could the Florida debacle happen again? Jeb Bush has assured Floridians that this election will be foolproof, with closely monitored registration and new electronic voting machines that are easy to understand.

Democrats like Dean have decried the new voting machines due to the fact that they leave no paper trail, and erase any chance of a recount.

America finds itself at an important crossroads, and in many ways the elections in our nation completely eclipse the democratic contests in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the only superpower in the world elects a new leader, everyone has a stock in who that leader is, as many European nations and the United Nations have discovered during these last four years.

Not only is the monitoring of our elections completely necessary, but it's vital atonement for the travesty that was 2000.


Staff writer Byron Vierk is a senior from Lincoln, Neb. He majors in history.


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