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Commentary :: Politics
Self-righteous U.S. should look at its own election
13 Dec 2004
Hypocrisy R US.......Moi?.......Who, me?
Vancouver Sun December 8, 2004

Self-righteous U.S. should look at its own election

By Stephen Hume

In a democracy all citizens are equal. However, among democracies, some
appear to think themselves more equal than others and thus entitled to
self-righteous huffing and puffing where humble self-examination might be
more in order.

George Orwell's send-up of inflated, holier-than-thou rhetoric sprang to
mind as I listened to the fervid tub-thumping in the United States about the
political schemozzle in Ukraine, where democratic process struggles to be
born amid widespread allegations of electoral irregularities.

Piecing the complaints together from various accounts, they seem to include:
Voter turnouts exceeding the number of those registered to vote;
intimidation of voters to either encourage or discourage voting; erroneous
counting of ballots; exit polls which indicated a commanding lead for one
candidate only to have the results turn out to be the opposite, and so on.

Clearly, with thousands of such complaints, Ukraine's election results were
suspect and the people took to the streets demanding another opportunity to
render a decision at the ballot box that's as clean as possible.

So what should we make of the growing list of similar complaints about
alleged irregularities at the polls during the recent U.S. elections?

There, the complaints appear to include: Voter turnouts that exceeded the
number of registered voters; intimidation of some minority voters; erroneous
counting of ballots; exit polls in three key jurisdictions which indicated a
commanding lead for one candidate only to have the results turn out to be
the opposite -- a statistical anomaly against which some scholars reportedly
say the odds are 250 million to one.

It seems to me that the much bigger question for everyone in the U.S.,
Republicans and Democrats alike, should be how their country, which holds
itself up as the paragon of democratic virtue that the world so needs, can
conduct an election that winds up resembling in many respects precisely the
kind of goat show it rails against in Ukraine.

And the question is a fair one. The Americans themselves invite it. The
price of freedom is eternal vigilance, they tirelessly remind themselves and
the rest of us.

It follows that a genuine democracy deserves no less than continuous and
rigorous scrutiny -- and never so much as when those who wrap themselves in
democracy's mantle presume to lecture others about how to conduct political

Let's see, according to one report in the Boston Globe last week, a
non-partisan foundation dedicated to identifying procedural irregularities
has now tabulated 30,000 "election incidents" during the last U.S. vote.

Many of those cited in the Globe bear dismaying similarities to complaints
from Ukraine. And reports cited from other newspapers and now flying around
the blogosphere provide a host of other oddities.

In North Carolina, according to Brian C. Mooney's report in the Globe,
voting machines in one county simply didn't record 4,000 votes. In Ohio,
Nebraska and in Washington State -- where fewer than 50 votes separate the
two candidates for governor -- he reported thousands of ballots were counted
twice. And he reports that in one polling precinct in the key state of Ohio
voting machines registered 3,893 votes for one candidate when only 638
people cast ballots.

And that's just the start of the weirdness.

The Chicago Tribune reported last Saturday that the number of dead people
registered to vote in six key swing states totalled more than 181,000. The
paper's Geoff Dougherty said that in New Mexico, where the margin between
the two candidates was 6,000 votes, 5,000 dead folks were on the voters

This kind of nonsense is inexcusable for an advanced nation which
presumptuously assigns itself as the model to which developing countries
struggling to establish a democracy should aspire.

A country that can go to the moon should be competent to run a clean and
efficient election in which the outcomes are trusted and indisputable.

Better, perhaps, to heed the advice of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who wrote
last week in the Chicago Sun-Times that while his political leaders
pontificate about voting irregularities elsewhere, in the U.S. massive and
systemic irregularities go largely unremarked.

Democracy, Jackson said, should not be for export only.

shume (at)

"Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth."
George Orwell - 1984

This work is in the public domain
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