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Welcome to Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by The Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the December 2001 edition of the Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an essay titled "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," in which he suggested that America is divided largely into two political cultures, one "red" and one "blue." His idea is based on those electoral maps in 2000 that colored majority-Republican states in red and majority-Democratic states in blue. Brooks' witty essay pictures the red-state voter as trending rural, a salt-of-the-earth type, concerned with individual liberty and family values, whereas the "blue" voter trends urban, more of a book-reader, a Beltway-savvy intellectual, the environmentally conscious soccer mom or dad.

Cliches? Maybe. But Brooks does have his finger on two very strong currents in the American votership. It's not that Pennsylvania is a "blue state" or Alabama is a "red state." It's that our two political cultures don't talk to each other much, or even know much about each other. To bridge that gap, we've brought together two "red" voters - John Franklin and Cynthia Sneed - and two "blue" voters, Terri Falbo and Timothy Horner. Each week, they'll ponder and debate the issues arising in the election campaign. The hope is that they'll model an intelligent discussion, a great big conference room where red and blue sit down together.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Joe Franklin, Red Stater 

Question Number Sixteen: Whom are you voting for and why? Please be specific.

I'm voting for President Bush. On the other hand . . . maybe I'm voting against John Kerry.

All four men in this race are very wealthy, with Sen. Kerry being the fattest cat of the four. President Bush had some success in business prior to entering politics. Vice President Cheney probably has the most distinguished career of the four, having served in Congress, as Secretary of Defense, and as CEO of Halliburton. Of course, the dirty liberals condemn him of his corporate experience.

Sen. Kerry has kept his face in the public through his entire adult life and married up for wealth. John Edwards "lawyered up" for his fortune. I doubt seriously whether as a child any of them wore bargain-store sneakers or made a meal of cold bread and beans. George Bush or Dick Chaney could more aptly converse with a trucker or a laborer. Maybe it boils down to likeability. But I'll stick with Bush.

President Bush's tax cuts are restarting the economy. John Kerry wants to soak the corporations and the wealthy (those his running mate couldn't bankrupt with lawsuits) with taxes. Some say Sen. Kerry emulates John F. Kennedy. Not so. President Kennedy advocated lower taxes for all Americans for a bigger economy. Sen. Kerry pits the wealthy and corporate America against the middle class and the poor. This is a smokescreen. In reality he wants to increase the size of government, which would require additional taxes to fund.

Early in the Presidential campaign, I thought the war in Iraq might be a problem for the President because a large number of people oppose the war. This thought lead me to believe the election was Sen. Kerry's to lose. His blundering statements such as "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time," and "the President rushed to war without a plan to win the peace," are costing him votes. Sen. Kerry would outsource our freedom and sovereignty to the United Nations and to our shady allies in Europe who were dealing under the table with Saddam Hussein.

Sen. Kerry says the war is a mistake. Yet those who died in Iraq have not died for a mistake. Such statements are a slap in the face to the bravest and brightest military force in our history.

Sen. Kerry's most recent statements regarding missing explosives are based on fuzzy, slanted, and biased news stories. On his next visit to Moscow, he might go find them under Treblinka Square!

The senator also criticizes the President on health care, Social Security, employment, and other domestic issues. But what has he done in his lackluster Senate career to improve these matters?

President Bush is not perfect, but he is our best hope for a safe America and a brighter economic future.


Blue-stater Timothy Horner responds:

I guess you only hear what you want to hear. Despite Kerry's adamant assurance that he would never surrender American security to anyone one, Joe and Cindy say he will. And in the face of a direct promise that Kerry will not raise taxes on the middle class, Joe and Cindy say he will. This is part of the neo-con package, and it reveals a desperate denial of anything Kerry says. It's all Bush has left to run on: denial. If anyone has a record of broken promises, it is Bush, not Kerry.

I also did not realize that the one who can best pretend to be one of us is the winner. Neither one of them is a regular guy, but only Bush has made a career out of pretending to be. And he is not even very good at the charade. Judging from the way he has showered privilege and tax breaks on the wealthiest Americans, I am surprised that Mr. Franklin does not see through the rouse.

But there is one statement that shows how successful Bush's propaganda has been. This administration has consistently silenced dissent and criticism of Bush's handling of the war by hiding behind the soldiers on the front line. If we criticize the war then we dishonor the soldiers. But if Vietnam did nothing else, it taught Americans not to blame the soldier for the mistakes made at the top, and yet it still lives on in Bush who is telling Americans that it is a package deal! It is truly ironic and dangerous that this administration, which seems to be so supportive of veterans, is still getting political mileage from this distasteful association.

This truly puts our troops at risk: If we cannot distinguish between the soldier and their commander and chief, then we will repeat a grave error from the Vietnam era. I have a yellow ribbon and a Kerry sticker on my truck. I can tell the difference between the war and the warrior. Can you?

Blue-stater Terri Falbo responds:

"Likeability" and personality are no reason to vote for a president. Too many confuse personality with character. A good actor can use a charming personality to mask an evil character. Just look at Scott Peterson. Instead, we need to learn to look closely at policies.

To explain her vote for President Bush, Ms. Snead points out what she obviously feels are contradictions in statements by John Kerry. Yet it's clear that these are not really ontradictory. The actual actions of both Bush and Cheney have been worse than contradictory.

To agree that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, a dictator, and a potential threat is not to imply that there is an imminent danger of threat or that invasion, destruction, and occupation of a whole country is the answer. Many other options have not been exhausted.

The administration presented evidence to the Senate Intelligence Committee but would not reveal its sources. Had it done so, Kerry and other committee members would have been more skeptical of the "information" presented.

No one condemns anyone for corporate experience in general. But the particular actions of particular corporations often do not strike confidence. Both Ms. Snead and Mr. Franklin conveniently ignore that Cheney's Halliburton set up subsidiaries in other countries so it could subvert U.S. sanctions to conduct trade with Hussein from 1996 to 2000. They ignore the fact that Saddam Hussein would never have had as much power as he did if it were not for Reagan/Cheney/Bush support all during the 1980s. U.S. government/corporate interests were involved in selling poison gas to Hussein even shortly after it had been revealed that he had used gas against civilians.

It is much of corporate America that has pitted itself against the middle class and poor by pushing for numerous policies that shift wealth away from the majority into the pockets of the top 1 percent. Kerry is only a messenger. Kerry has supported many bills to improve, among other domestic problems, health care, Social Security, and employment. If his career is "lackluster," it is only because he chose to remain in the background and support bills, rather than getting the limelight by claiming authorship.
(0) comments

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

Whom are you voting for, and why? Please be specific.

I am not happy at all with the direction in which our country is headed. The original position of President Bush toward the 9/11 Commission was very disturbing. It was a travesty that the 9/11 families had to fight the administration to get an independent commission, then to get proper funding, access to documents, testimonies from key people, and time to finish the investigation. He later changed his positions ("flip-flopped!") on all these, when it became clear that his original positions would be publicly indefensible. Yet, when asked if he had made any mistakes, certain appointments were the only things he could think of. This lack of self-reflection is scary.

The war in Iraq does not make me feel safer or "stronger." I think daily about the thousands upon thousands of Americans and Iraqis suffering death, disabilities and diseases related to depleted uranium. I am concerned about our foreign policy and worried that the things that would really result in more public safety at home are being short-changed by the current administration.

Then there is this administration's disregard for the environment, the increasing economic insecurity of workers, and the lack of accountability on the part of many major corporations.

Remember 30 years ago, when it was starting to be commonplace that the 40-hour workweek provided a good standard of living for a whole family? Now, it is hard for many families to make it on more than 80 hours a week. Why? Largely because of economic policies instituted over the last few decades - class-war policies that are favored by President Bush. These policies have redistributed wealth away from average working people into the pockets of the top 1 percent of the population. Of course, the administration has all kind of tricks and maneuvers to disguise what is going on and to get many of us to support policies that result in our own harm. One favorite of theirs is to point out that the top 1 percent pay 37 percent of the taxes as proof that the rich pay more than their "fair share." But they don't tell us that the top 1 percent have 50 percent of the wealth. So, another way to look at it is that the bottom 99 percent, who have the other 50 percent, yet pay 63 percent of the taxes!

Working-class youth are sacrificing their lives and health, yet the President will not even ask the top 1 percent to give up a tax break. Despite pretenses to the contrary, he truly does consider the "have mores" to be his "base," as he was shown saying in the movie Fahrenheit 9/11.

I am very concerned about many crucial issues facing our nation - war and terrorism, the economy, the environment, education, health care, democratic rights, etc. The policies of the current President are extremely harmful to most people in our country, though cloaked in the guise of "individual empowerment."

A majority vote for John Kerry will not solve all problems, but at least it will be a step in the right direction: toward supporting policies that are more beneficial to the majority of Americans. We can do much better!

Red-stater Joe Franklin responds:

Blue Staters say Bush will not admit mistakes. I say Mr. Kerry is inconsistent and cannot make decisions. Kerry has expressed commitment to Iraq similar to that of George Bush. The senator has consistently voted to cut military and intelligence spending even after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Where is Kerry's confession and apology to the citizenry?

George Bush will keep taxes low, as he has done, to stave off what could have been a severe recession. President Bush's tax cuts benefited the poor and the middle class. What's wrong with that approach?

The War on terror and the war in Iraq are different from any in history and, like all wars, they have created a deficit. What response should we have made to the terrorists? Should we consult the United Nations and wait for our shady allies to come on board? I say pursue the terrorists for as long as it takes!

Ms. Falbo's reference to Fahrenheit 9/11 and the statement about the have-mores being Bush's "base" are totally out of context. The President's statement was: "This is an impressive crowd of the haves and have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." This statement was made to a group at a nonpartisan fund-raiser for charities run by the Archdiocese of New York.

On the subject of Michael Moore and the Hollywood celebrities: I pay these uneducated buffoons to entertain me, not tell me who to vote for in the Presidential Election. In the future, they will be a few dollars short: mine!

The rich do, in fact, support President Bush. Millionaires in this country are now commonplace. But the real snobs, the super-rich (10 million plus) like Warren Buffet and George Soros, have endorsed John Kerry. These fat-cats have so much money they don't care whether taxes are raised or cut. They could live off the interest of their tax-exempt bonds.

Neither candidate's status as a Christian (though for me this is a plus) or the weight or his purse should be an issue. I don't fear the terrorists, but I am concerned about security and economic future of our country. Sen. Kerry's record is liberal, irresponsible, and troubling. Let's give President Bush the mandate to finish the job he has started.

Red-stater Cynthia Sneed responds:

I can say this: I would not vote for John Forbes Kerry for President of these United States if he were a Republican and the last Republican standing on this Earth.

As for which political party is the "most Christian," I have learned that only erudite, liberal Democrats can discuss religion.

Whenever liberals discuss religion it is always, without exception, based on something other than behavior, because, for them, there is no bad behavior. This is how liberals justify every type of debauchery. They always say: "We love old people, poor people, poor, old people, and furry little animals more than you, nya, nya, nya," while supporting sucking a birthing baby's brain out of its skull and creating embryos simply to destroy them all in the name of "science" (same argument Hitler used).

I think the Rev. William J. H. Boetcker sums up my response to the Blue-staters:

* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
* You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
* You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative.
* You cannot really help men by having the government tax them to do for them what they can and should do for themselves.

Finally, I think that Mathew Manweller, political science professor at Central Washington University, captures, in words better than I can devise, why half of America is supporting President Bush:

This Election Determines the Fate of The Nation

This Nov. 2, we will vote in the only election during our lifetime that will truly matter. Because America is at a once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an election hangs in the balance. Down one path lies retreat, abdication, and a reign of ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation its future demands. If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo through the next 50 years of history. If we, in a spasm of frustration, turn out the current occupant of the White House, the message to the world and ourselves will be twofold:

First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things. Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis, and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has characterized other civilizations. The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of history, regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.

Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia, we showed terrorists that you don't need to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become a defeated America. Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracking polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal blow.

Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grisly photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American administration without setting foot on the homeland. It is said that America's Second World War generation is its "greatest generation." But my greatest fear is that it will become known as America's "last generation." Born in the bleakness of the Great Depression and hardened in the fire of World War Two, they may be the last American generation that understands the meaning of duty, honor and sacrifice.

This November, my generation, which has been absent too long, must grasp the obligation that comes with being an American, or fade into the oblivion it may
deserve. I believe that 100 years from now, historians will look back at the election of 2004 and see it as the decisive election of our century. Depending on
the outcome, they will describe it as the moment America joined the ranks of ordinary nations; or they will describe it as the moment the prodigal sons and
daughters of the greatest generation accepted their burden as caretakers of the City on the Hill.


That's all, folks. Good luck - and remember, no matter who wins on Tuesday, we have to live in America together on Wednesday and beyond.











(0) comments

Tim Horner, Blue Stater 

Question Number Sixteen: Whom are you voting, and why? Please be specific.

By now it should be apparent that religion is an important aspect of this campaign. And there is one fundamental contradiction I can't shake: This President, who calls himself a Christian, has nothing to repent. No mistakes, no apologies, no humility. The only person who could claim this kind of perfection is Jesus. Maybe Bush is confused about what it means to follow Christ? It does not mean never having to say you are sorry.

This lack of Christian humility, this abundance of fear, anger, and arrogance, runs right against the grain of core Christian faith. I don't buy the argument that "Yes, Bush has things to apologize for, and he probably knows it, but if he apologizes now it would be the end of him." That implies that he secretly feels sorry but his political career is more important than speaking the truth and bringing resolution to those who are mourning. It also means that there was a time when he could have done it but he turned away, for the same reason. Neither scenario is pretty or very "Christian." And none of it would be an issue if he had not set himself up as the American Moses.

I was always raised to recognize Christians not by their word, but by their deeds. You need both, of course, but the latter always trumps the former. Bush talks about how much he prays, but what has come of it? Stacking the courts with conservatives; playing the sanctity-of-life card (except in Iraq!); neglecting the poor, the unemployed, the young, and the disenfranchised. I just can't imagine that God smiled when Bush joked about not finding weapons of mass destruction, or called the wealthy elite his "base," or gave a big tax break to the richest Americans, or sank this country into a huge hole of debt, or misled the American public about the real reason for going into Iraq.

Only someone with a very narrow view of Christianity could possibly overlook such character traits. Are Christians (especially evangelicals) so desperate for a president who outwardly shares their views that we will overlook so many failures and so many lost lives just to say that we have a hometown boy who made good? Christianity is a diverse faith, but nothing has divided Christians, even evangelicals, more than this administration.

There are too many fearful Christians who think that they have to vote for Bush or God will be mad at them. But Christianity will do just fine no matter who is in the White House - even a liberal! Is it not enough that John Kerry says he is a Christian and fights for the ideals espoused by Christianity's founder?

There is even a case to be made that Christianity is closest to its origins when it is opposed to earthly power. This administration is nothing if it is not about getting and keeping such power. Christians are supposed to be in the world, not of it. We should be our national conscience, not our Constitution.

If you are a Christian and you haven't voted yet, look into your heart and ask yourself whether Christianity is about fear, death, war, increased poverty, disdain for the vulnerable, consumption, intolerance, and more big business and scandal. If it is, then Bush is your man and the apocalypse is just around the corner. If Christianity, and America for that matter, cares about hope, confidence, compassion, equality, personal freedom, and the sanctity of life that goes beyond the fetus, then you should think again about putting America through another four years of George Bush and Co. Vote early, vote Kerry.


Red-stater Joe Franklin responds:

Yes, Christianity is a diverse faith, and the Democratic Party is a very diverse party. On the left, the Democrats support gay marriage, civil unions, and abortions, and on the other left they appraise and judge the President's Christianity.

America is a diverse nation. On the left, we have those who oppose school prayer, oppose use of the word God in the Pledge of Allegiance, and would remove "In God We Trust" from our currency - and on the other left we have those who inject religion into the Presidential Campaign.

I feel for the families who have lost loved ones, especially the victims of 9/11. I believe that President Bush also hurts for these families. Why must he confess and ask the citizenry for forgiveness? I'm confident he prays to God.

Blue Staters say Bush will not admit mistakes. I say Mr. Kerry is inconsistent and cannot make decisions. Kerry has expressed commitment to Iraq similar to that of George Bush. The senator has consistently voted to cut military and intelligence spending even after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Where is Kerry's confession and apology to the citizenry?

George Bush will keep taxes low, as he has done, to stave off what could have been a severe recession. President Bush's tax cuts benefited the poor and the middle class. What's wrong with that approach?

The War on terror and the war in Iraq are different from any in history and, like all wars, they have created a deficit. What response should we have made to the terrorists? Should we consult the United Nations and wait for our shady allies to come on board? I say pursue the terrorists for as long as it takes!

Ms. Falbo's reference to Fahrenheit 9/11 and the statement about the have-mores being Bush's "base" are totally out of context. The President's statement was: "This is an impressive crowd of the haves and have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." This statement was made to a group at a nonpartisan fund-raiser for charities run by the Archdiocese of New York.

On the subject of Michael Moore and the Hollywood celebrities: I pay these uneducated buffoons to entertain me, not tell me who to vote for in the Presidential Election. In the future, they will be a few dollars short: mine!

The rich do, in fact, support President Bush. Millionaires in this country are now commonplace. But the real snobs, the super-rich (10 million plus) like Warren Buffet and George Soros, have endorsed John Kerry. These fat-cats have so much money they don't care whether taxes are raised or cut. They could live off the interest of their tax-exempt bonds.

Neither candidate's status as a Christian (though for me this is a plus) or the weight or his purse should be an issue. I don't fear the terrorists, but I am concerned about security and economic future of our country. Sen. Kerry's record is liberal, irresponsible, and troubling. Let's give President Bush the mandate to finish the job he has started.

Red-stater Cynthia Sneed responds:

I can say this: I would not vote for John Forbes Kerry for President of these United States if he were a Republican and the last Republican standing on this Earth.

As for which political party is the "most Christian," I have learned that only erudite, liberal Democrats can discuss religion.

Whenever liberals discuss religion it is always, without exception, based on something other than behavior, because, for them, there is no bad behavior. This is how liberals justify every type of debauchery. They always say: "We love old people, poor people, poor, old people, and furry little animals more than you, nya, nya, nya," while supporting sucking a birthing baby's brain out of its skull and creating embryos simply to destroy them all in the name of "science" (same argument Hitler used).

I think the Rev. William J. H. Boetcker sums up my response to the Blue-staters:

* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
* You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
* You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative.
* You cannot really help men by having the government tax them to do for them what they can and should do for themselves.

Finally, I think that Mathew Manweller, political science professor at Central Washington University, captures, in words better than I can devise, why half of America is supporting President Bush:

This Election Determines the Fate of The Nation

This Nov. 2, we will vote in the only election during our lifetime that will truly matter. Because America is at a once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an election hangs in the balance. Down one path lies retreat, abdication, and a reign of ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation its future demands. If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo through the next 50 years of history. If we, in a spasm of frustration, turn out the current occupant of the White House, the message to the world and ourselves will be twofold:

First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things. Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis, and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has characterized other civilizations. The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of history, regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.

Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia, we showed terrorists that you don't need to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become a defeated America. Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracking polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal blow.

Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grisly photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American administration without setting foot on the homeland. It is said that America's Second World War generation is its "greatest generation." But my greatest fear is that it will become known as America's "last generation." Born in the bleakness of the Great Depression and hardened in the fire of World War Two, they may be the last American generation that understands the meaning of duty, honor and sacrifice.

This November, my generation, which has been absent too long, must grasp the obligation that comes with being an American, or fade into the oblivion it may
deserve. I believe that 100 years from now, historians will look back at the election of 2004 and see it as the decisive election of our century. Depending on
the outcome, they will describe it as the moment America joined the ranks of ordinary nations; or they will describe it as the moment the prodigal sons and
daughters of the greatest generation accepted their burden as caretakers of the City on the Hill.


That's all, folks. Good luck - and remember, no matter who wins on Tuesday, we have to live in America together on Wednesday and beyond.






(0) comments

Monday, October 25, 2004

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

Question Number Fourteen: Given the amount of concerns over inaccurate vote counts, the discrepancy of polling equipment, voting machine malfunctions and allegations of potential voter fraud, how confident are you of our system of counting votes for the Nov. 2 election?

Think hanging and pregnant chads were a nightmare? Well, the supposed cure of $4 billion for electronic voting machines could be worse than the disease.

One problem is the lack of a paper trail with most of the electronic voting machines. This makes a verifiable recount next to impossible should the stated results be under question. Though manufacturers claim a higher accuracy rate for electronic machines than with paper balloting, computer specialists, scientists, and engineers have demonstrated the potential of errors or deliberate election-rigging through the use of these machines.

Another problem is that the manufacturers of the voting machines are privately owned companies with dubious interests and ties. Although "trial runs" and testing of sorts is done, their systems and programming are considered secret "proprietary information" and not open for inspection.

Three private companies supply virtually all the electronic voting machines in the United States. Top officials from these companies have been convicted of vote fraud, plead guilty to bribery, and have ties to the mob and oil interests. There is even one who recently stated that he was committed to turning out the vote for President Bush. (For verification, do a Web search for "voting fraud," and many reputable sources will be displayed.) With companies like that, who needs enemies to undermine elections?

Not to mention the torn-up registrations and all the recent trouble getting absentee ballots for disabled voters. (I personally know two Florida residents who are having problems in this area.)

It is probably too late for this election, but we as a people desperately need to take a stand to move more toward democracy. Bills have been introduced into Congress that provide some solutions, including:

* Requiring a verifiable paper trail for all electronic voting;

* Requiring voting machines to be manufactured and overseen by an independent, nonpartisan government organization (similar to the GAO), with all programs and systems open to public inspection, rather than relying on private companies with secret proprietry information.


(0) comments

Joe Franklin, Red Stater 

Question Number Fourteen: Given the amount of concerns over inaccurate vote counts, the discrepancy of polling equipment, voting machine malfunctions and allegations of potential voter fraud, how confident are you of our system of counting votes for the Nov. 2 election?

After being educated on butterfly ballots, hanging chads, dimpled chads, and pregnant chads in the 2000 Florida presidential election, I suppose anything can happen. I've heard it said we could have nine or 10 Floridas this year. We will probably have al-Qaeda peacekeepers in the United States by the time the presidential election of 2004 is settled. Now, that's electoral dysfunction!

Remember the Ryder truck that carried the ballots from Palm Beach to Tallahassee? If the process had required carrying the ballots to Washington, we would have had four more years of Clinton. The teams of lawyers involved were the only ones who benefited from that fiasco. Allegation of voter fraud is already being made by lawyers on both sides in the 2004 election. No doubt we need reform in our election laws.

At my polling place, we vote on a paper ballot with a pen and enter it into an electronic counter. The ballots are kept in the counter and can be removed for a manual recount. I am comfortable with this system. I don't think I would be as comfortable with some of the paperless electronic voting machines I have heard about in other states.

Working around courthouses for almost 30 years, I have heard stories about dead people voting and the cemetery vote. But nowadays, with all the advancements in health care, we just vote the nursing homes, where many are incompetent and virtually brain-dead.

I think our state legislatures need to take a good look at absentees and early voting. Possibly we need to undertake more frequent reidentification of voters. It seems as if many prospective voters need instructions and education regarding the process. I find it troubling that the only instructions and assistance given are from partisans in the final days leading up to elections.

(0) comments

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tim Horner, Blue stater 

Question Number Fourteen: Given the amount of concerns over inaccurate vote counts, the discrepancy of polling equipment, voting machine malfunctions, and allegations of potential voter fraud, how confident are you of our system of counting votes for the Nov. 2 election?

Not very. For many of us, the deeper we sunk into this administration, the more the 2000 election became a source of pain and deep regret. Personally, I was and still am, disgusted at how the Democrats let it slip through their hands because they were trying to be "grown up" about it.

Now when we look back, it is so clear that the election was stolen by a small group of Republican insiders, a news network named after a small animal hunted in England, and a Supreme Court determined to make George W. Bush the next president, integrity and truth notwithstanding.

But that was not the worst part. The true shame was when we all just accepted the whole swindle. Not again. The Democratic Party is very different now. There is no way we would allow such shenanigans again (so I tell myself). Plus this is 2004, and we have progressed. We have moved on, and in the true spirit of America, we have made improvements to the system.

Now we have computerized voting. Computers are always good, aren't they? They never lie and are completely safe against tampering, aren't they? And they are better because they leave no trace, no paper trail. So much kinder to trees, because then there will be no recount. We just throw those votes out if there is a dispute. Much better. And we have that priceless quote from Walden W. O'Dell, the chairman and chief executive of Diebold Inc. (the company that manufactures the new voting machines). He sent an invitation to a fund-raising party last August that said, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." It's not surprising to hear another fat cat coming out in support of Bush, but it does make me wonder who pushed for computerized voting. I never remember much of a public outcry for more computers. Sometimes the permanence of paper is worth the time and trees - that is, if the votes are counted.

I know that it probably sounds like I am setting up a worst-case scenario so that if there is foul play, I can lay it at the feet of the Republicans. Sort of, but not really. I think there is a bigger issue at play in this election, an issue Americans noticed for the first time in 2000: Our votes are not equal.

Americans finally know what the Electoral College is and how it works. And, like many Americans, I am not terribly impressed. In 2004, we are seeing how this system can distort an election campaign. As a Pennsylvanian, I have been inordinately courted by these candidates. It's not even a big deal anymore if a candidate comes to my neighborhood. That does not seem fair. I can understand the feelings of Democrats in Nebraska (where my parents live) or Republicans in California (where a friend of mine lives). Simply put, because their states are firmly in one electoral heap or another, their votes do not count as much as mine, which I will cast in a closely contested, crucial battleground state. I wonder whether my compatriots in Alabama feel this discrepancy, even if they support Bush.

Oddly, that is the whole point of the Electoral College: to make sure that smaller states get a little lift. But the whole thing seems to have outworn its usefulness and become distorted. In fact, electoral votes are working against the smaller states, because the candidates are not wasting time on them. They are not worth the trip. Why should Pennsylvania or Florida or Ohio or even New Hampshire determine the next president? In this age of mass communication, especially the Internet(s), this concern for the smaller states is not as much of an issue.

And there is something fundamentally undemocratic about valuing some votes more than others. I think most Americans would agree, but until we put enough pressure on our government to reform this system, or at least have a public debate on the issue, nothing will be done. I think we can now be trusted with one person, one vote. There is a certain elegance and simplicity about counting up the votes and whoever wins, wins. Isn't that how they are doing it in Afghanistan? Does the government trust the people enough to let us speak? Certainly we are beyond the stereotype of the city mouse and country mouse. But unfortunately, the liberal rural vote has met the same fate as the conservative city vote.

In a race this close, we are bound to run into scandal. The lawsuits have already begun. The task of tallying the votes for a country this size is so monumental that it is impossible to avoid trouble. As a Democrat, I hope that if we see a scenario similar to the one in 2000, the liberals do not take the high ground and let themselves get steamrollered again. I guess with 4,000 lawyers (2,000 per party) guarding the polls in Florida, I should feel comforted.

In the face of these foreboding signs, I take comfort in an old saying from Tennessee: "Fool me once . . . " . . . how does it go again? . . . " . . . shame on . . ." . . . hmm . . . "shame on you . . ." . . . "If I fool me, you can't get fooled again" . . . wait a minute, it'll come to me . . . .

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Bloggers from
Blue State (Pa.)


Terri Falbo

Born and raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Terri Falbo is a union organizer who has lived in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. She graduated from Temple University and previously worked as a construction worker for 17 years.

Tim Horner

Tim Horner grew up in Iowa, but has lived out significant chunks of his adult life in Chicago, IL and Oxford, England. He is married and has four children (14, 12, 10 and 7). Having grown up as an Evangelical in the Midwest and still a practicing Christian, he is concerned with how religion and politics mix. Because of a combination of circumstance and apathy, he has never voted in a presidential election. He currently teaches Humanities at Villanova University.
Bloggers from
Red State (Ala.)


Joe Franklin

Alabama native Joe Franklin, 58, was born in Pike County and grew up on a farm in Crenshaw County. He graduated from Troy State University in 1967. After working for 28 years with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles as a parole and probation officer, retired to Crenshaw County, which is just south of Montgomery, where he spends his days working on the farm.


Cynthia Sneed

Gadsden resident and local college professor Cynthia Smith Sneed has a doctorate in Accounting from the University of Alabama. Her fields of academic research are in state pension and employee benefit issues. She has been published in numerous academic accounting journals and has done research for the Alabama Policy Institute. She is a member of the American Accounting Association, Governmental Finance Officers Association as well as being active in the Republican Party.



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