Regardless of who you thought should have won the presidential election, and regardless of whom you thought more people actually voted for, the outcome of the Florida election crisis protected your rights as an American citizen.

For Gore supporters, and for those who simply maintain that more people intended to vote for Gore, these words are not easy to swallow.

The truth of the matter is that regardless of which candidate received more votes, George W. Bush received more clearly identifiable votes. This is bitter medicine for those of us who were not fans of Mr. Bush, but consider the facts of the situation and the alternatives to what happened.

To begin with, every vote in Florida was counted. For fans of mathematics, this is how we know the number of ballots cast. Calculating who wins includes the process of counting the number of ballots. There were many ballots deemed unclear and thus non-votes, but to say that these ballots were never counted is absurd.

The hand recounts also reviewed the ballots in question, affirming previous conclusions and adding a few votes to both candidates? totals. Ballots still deemed uncountable were found to be unhelpful to both parties. Vote counters could not agree on whether or not certain ballots indicated a vote, a machine error, an accidental mark, or a non-vote. These were not cases of a clearly defined ?holes in the punch card? nor were they instances of the now infamous ?one-cornered hanging chads.?

By the time of the recounts, questionable ballots had already been tallied. These were marks, indentations and scratches that by and large could neither be indentified as a mistake or an attempt at a cast vote.

Many critics have noted that an amazing 3 percent of Florida?s voters did not vote for a Presidential candidate, a fact that seems to indicate an error in counting. According to election commission data, the national average of individuals not casting a vote for president on a ballot is about 5 percent. In an election where the two candidates have very few differences, non-votes were hardly surprising.

Regardless of these factors, the alternative to the decision handed down by the Supreme Court would have been far more devastating to the future of this nation than having a president without a mandate. In essence, the Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 opinion to end the recounts.

The alternative was to set a precedent in which a group of non-elected officials, chosen by their respective political parties, would decide the intent of contested ballots, based on nothing but prejudices and ambiguous markings already deemed unrecognizably vague.

To clarify, appointed representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties would have decided what a few indentations and scratches might have meant, and thereby decide who the president would be, based on ambiguous information at best.

Regardless of political affiliation, if you think that we should allow the president to be chosen by officials appointed by political parties, with no accountability to the populace, then I invite you to sign away your civil liberties immediately, as you obviously have no regard for them.

We are not talking about appointed officials looking over ballots with obvious punctures. We are talking about people with clear political biases looking at ballots, scratching their heads and saying ?Oh! It?s for my candidate!?

The possibility smacks of the old time political machines of this nation, in which a vote mattered only as much as the party affiliation of the person counting it.

Whether or not you believe Bush received the most votes in Florida doesn?t matter. There was more at stake in this election than filling the office of the presidency.

In the end, the right decision was made. Though it angered many citizens, democracy was upheld. I?ll take upholding democracy over dissatisfaction with a presidential selection any day of the week.



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