Election 2004 Our Responsibility

With the 2004 United States Presidential elections just four weeks away, memories of the 2000 election and how they affected each of our lives in particular has lead to renewed interest in the electoral process and this campaign year. 2000 turned out to be the first time in 100 years that a candidate who won the popular vote, lost in the electoral college. Never before in the history of a presidential race had it been so close, with tallies at one time being less than a 400 vote margin out of the 60 million plus votes that were cast.

I remember watching the tally of states as early it seemed it would be an easy victory for Gore with him having been projected by networks as having carried New York, Florida, and California. But as we continued further into the night, Florida was moved back and forth in the undecided column as it became to close to call. With Iowa, Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon remaining it became convincingly clear that Florida and the state's 25 Electoral Votes would be the deciding factor in this tightly contested campaign. 15 million eligible voters in the state and some 7 million had turned out to vote.

I stayed up all night the morning of Nov. 8 awaiting a declared winner. The 2000 election was the topic of my article that month for 'Keeping You Connected…' and I had just days until my deadline. When I went to sleep that night at 4 a.m., Bush was leading Florida by 30,000 votes, Oregon was the only other state undecided, and Gore was about to concede defeat. When I woke in the morning, Gore had withdrawn his concession over controversy prevailing in several counties but especially in West Palm Beach where 14,000 votes were set aside and uncounted. Controversy also loomed over butterfly ballots which thousands had said confused them resulting in an accidental voting for Pat Buchanan when intentions were to vote for Gore.

On that infamous butterfly ballot the hole corresponding to a vote for Gore had been aligned with the name of Pat Buchanan while Buchanan's corresponding hole placed beside Gore. This lead to confusion on whether people were voting for him or Buchanan as Buchanan did not have strong support in Florida, but ended up having thousands of votes cast for him because of the confusion. With Bush being placed at the top of the ballot, it was clear that he being the first candidate, got your vote if you punched the first hole. Recounts were called for in four counties, Volusia, Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach and Broward. Machine recounts were done with Gore gaining slightly. With 175,010 votes set aside and uncounted in Florida, lawyers for Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of the Florida Supreme Court, to extend deadlines to include hand recounts in Florida's tally overruling Secretary of State Kathryn Harris.
In a controversial decision, hand recounts were stopped and Bush was decided winner of the 2000 election.

What did all of this mean for the average American citizen? Clearly, it meant that we as citizens must awaken to the awesome power that voting privilege places into the hands of each of us and to be absolutely clear before voting how your vote will be counted should you vote a certain way. When in doubt ask. Every vote matters and is important, this we have learned. Any vote could be the deciding factor in the future of our nation and fate of our families. Each of us owes it to each other to be knowledgeable in our decisions to cast vote and elect officials who can uphold the integrity of representing you and I as a whole. This election will set the precedence for all other campaigns in American history, especially now with our current pre-emptive strike go it alone foreign policy. The whole world watches and awaits to see if this is just the current administrations policy or the will of the American people as a whole.

It is a dead heat and they need us for election and we as citizens are responsible for who takes oath and who leads from here. It is in our hands. The power of voting puts the decision of leadership on the shoulders of adults 18 years and older whether or not they/we recognize the privilege. 55 million Americans watched the first presidential debate and a recent Gallup poll finds an unprecedented 71% of Americans interested in the stories which will aid them in making a wiser decision this campaign than in 2000. For every reason Americans are starting to understand the duties of citizenship and are laying the foundation for an informed ballot. I have seen greater interest in politics this year, than I ever have before among my own peer group and family members. Whatever really happened in 2000, we now know that this is our opportunity to utilize the power that so many died for us to have.

For many this will be the first election they have ever participated in. For even more this will be the first election where they will be casting an 'informed' ballot which represents time paying attention to all of the presidential debates as well as doing research on individual issues. Overall America is in better understanding of who the candidates are when it comes to who is vying for our vote to lead us collectively into the next four years of global connection to each other. We have a chance, a responsibility to impact the future, and to hope for the best, utilizing our vote to best represent that decision.

Come November 2nd, we as a nation, every man and women are responsible for deciding who will best be qualified to handle the leadership of America. This individual will lead our nation and the world into what I hope will be peace and collaboration to secure that peace. Namaste, God Bless Democracy and may the future of the world hold beauty and abundance for us all.