I think we all lost our innocence about elections in this country during the great Florida recount of five years ago.
Most of us knew that elections have sometimes been stolen. Yet in a sense, what we learned from Florida in 2000 was even more shocking than actual vote fraud would have been. What we found out was that there was no way to tell exactly what a valid vote was. And as it turned out, that meant we never actually knew who should have become president.
We did learn about things like pregnant chads, punch cards that hadn’t been punched through all the way. We met the infamous “butterfly ballot,” which was so out of whack that a voter who tried to vote Al Gore, may have dropped one in for Pat Buchanan instead.
Some of us wondered then – could all this have happened here, in Michigan? The answer, fortunately, seems to be no.
That’s because we had our own crash-and-burn election here in 1950, when we had a governor’s race that looked very much like the presidential race did in Florida a half-century later. There were recounts and squabbles for weeks. After it was over, the state began the process of reforming its election procedure. Our only other major bump in the road came in 1970, when Detroit became one of the first cities in the nation to try punch card voting. That time it took three days to learn who the next governor would be.
Yet there is always room for improvement, and Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has come out with a package to twenty reforms which are in the process of being taken up by the legislature. Frankly, I am impressed by nearly all of them.
They appear to be generally non-partisan. Republicans are often accused of wanting lower turnouts in most elections, since higher turnouts are often thought to favor Democrats. Secretary Land is a proud Republican – but there are a number of provisions here designed to make it easier to vote, and especially to get young people to vote.
On the other hand, Democrats have traditionally opposed provisions requiring a photo ID to vote, partly because they fear some voters may feel intimidated. But in today’s modern society, everyone has to show ID all the time. I needed my driver’s license to write a check for a pile of produce at the fruit market yesterday.
Having to show a bad little picture of ourselves at the polls only makes common sense. Secretary Land wants to require us to do so, after a lawsuit over this issue gets through the federal courts,
There is one place where I think she didn’t go far enough – and ironically, it is the one thing Florida does right. The sunshine state has a provision for an automatic recount any time the margin is less than one-half of one percent. That sounds only fair to me.
Make sure everything works, guard against fraud, and recount the cliffhangers. Now if she could just do something about guaranteeing us candidates who actually keep their promises . . .