Election aftermath

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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans reflects on the election aftermath.

(Seamans) For just a moment yesterday Prince and pauper and all in between were equal when we exercised our secret ballot, the supreme privilege of our form of democracy. At the instant I dropped my ballot in the box I, for one, savored the fantasy that I was as powerful as – let’s say – President Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Gates, or even a $20 million dollar Red Sox baseball player.

Now as we have been hearing all day long we were involved in what we could call our post election election – the aftermath of an extremely bitter campaign. I could not summon more descriptive words than those of the New York Times which said, Too much heat, too little light, so much wrong, not enough right. It was long, costly, raw and nasty… – so said the Times.

And now as we cope with the aftermath we face the question whether our ideal of a fair and secret election for everyone eligible to vote has been broken by well intentioned legal rules like the provisional ballot many of which will not be counted. We have had four years to clean up the Florida election mess and we ask whether that experience taught us to move forward. Today it looks like the Florida post election problem has been overcome and moved to Ohio.

Observers allege that the overt manipulation of different state voting systems has robbed thousands of their legitimate vote. This has been compounded by the use of those new electronic voting machines vulnerable to tampering and leaving no paper trail thus making a recount impossible.

Does this cry out for a standardized national voting system for our national offices – President and Vice President, Senate and House of Representatives and let the States join in or retain their own voting systems for their local offices from Governor on down. Impossible? Too complex? Or is the idea possible only if there is a national consensus to clean up our quadrennial presidential election dilemma.

Another perennial idea gaining more attention than usual would change the Electoral College from the present winner takes all system to proportional representation – with the number of electors appointed according to the number of votes won by the parties.

A good start, I think, would be to restore some form of the Fairness Doctrine that would assure other voices adequate broadcast time to answer the hate-mongering talk show hosts who have virtually destroyed civility in our political discourse.

Perhaps a new definition of what a fair American election should be will evolve from this post election hiatus. We also should ask will this be the election model that we will want to hold up as an example for Iraq to emulate.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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