Historic election holds invaluable lessons for U.S.

Posted: Friday, November 10, 2000

Is this a great country, or what?

Who the next occupant of the White House will be is still anybody's guess (at least as of this writing), but life continues as it did before Tuesday's election (minus the political ads).

There's no gunfire. No fighting in the streets. Financial markets haven't disintegrated. Even if their preferred candidate isn't declared the victor, people aren't worried that the nation will fall apart at the seams.

Sure, there's some legal maneuvering and accusations of election irregularities. There's been at least one lawsuit filed seeking a new election in Florida. That's to be expected.

The amazing thing is no one expects anything but a peaceful resolution to this one-of-a-kind presidential election.

In fact, whatever the outcome, the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush may go down in history as the one that renewed Americans' interest in their system of government.

That would be no small legacy.

Even with pollsters predicting for months that it would be a neck-and-neck race to the finish, preliminary numbers show that still only about 50 percent of the country's registered voters took the time to cast a ballot. That's a huge improvement over, say, the 18 percent that participated in the Kenai Peninsula Borough's local election, but it still lags behind what should be expected in a race of such importance.

Now, perhaps, everyone understands the importance of their vote. It does make a difference -- just ask Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush.

Debates may have been heated before the election, but now, they're really getting interesting. And the importance of one vote is just one of the lessons this election is driving home.

The last time most people thought about the role of the Electoral College in our political system likely was in a high school government class, who knows how many years ago. It's been easy to forget about it because there hasn't been a discrepancy between the electoral vote and the popular vote since 1888, according to The Associated Press.

With the very real possibility that one of this year's candidates may lead in popular votes, but not win the necessary 270 Electoral College votes -- and hence, the presidency -- it's time to question if changes are needed in the system.

The concept of "one person, one vote" works well in every other election. Why shouldn't it work in the presidential races? Does the Electoral College serve as some kind of check and balance to the popular vote? If so, why is such a check on the will of the people needed? Is the Electoral College really just an out-of-date system devised by our wealthy, white founding fathers to protect themselves from the votes of the masses? (Remember, these are the same men that didn't think women or minorities should have the right to vote.)

These questions that are being raised across kitchen tables, in class rooms and on radio talk shows across the country are worth being addressed by Congress. The country either needs to reaffirm its belief in the Electoral College system or commit itself to "one person, one vote" in our presidential races.

From our perspective, the country has nothing to fear by following the popular vote in every election, including the one for president. It's time to change the system.

The most important lesson of this year's election is for the politicians. The nation's split between Al Gore and George W. Bush should be seen as a call to bipartisanship. There's plenty of room for diverse viewpoints, but politicians need to remember there's a "united" in this nation's great name. Our country is best served in a spirit of cooperation, by actions that bring people together instead of divide.

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