The recall in court

Posted: Aug 20, 2003 12:00 AM

There are days when it doesn't pay to contemplate on the inanities of modern life. Today is such a day. The ACLU is in court in California trying to block the recall election on the theory that some voters are being discriminated against by virtue of having to vote by the dreaded punch card method. For those who have never suffered through that mental ordeal, let me describe it. In order to cast a ballot, the voter must look at the candidate's name on the card, see a hole next to it, pick up a needle-like device with an ergonomically designed handle, grasp the handle and put the point through the hole.

Let us recall that Jane Goodall authoritatively described chimpanzees in the wild picking up thick stalks of grass or twigs and sticking them in holes in trees to extract termites for lunch. Exactly who is not smart enough to use a punch card ballot? Lemurs? Other prehensile-tailed lower primates? Keep in mind, the human voter can have the process described to him or her both in writing and orally. The chimpanzee, on the other hand, had to invent the process himself or herself. We are not asking the voter to invent the punch card method, just to use it.

The implicit suggestion is that the punch card voting method is a backdoor form of the outlawed literacy tests that were used in the Old South to deter black voters. For those who don't remember such tests, aspiring voters were asked simple questions, such as who was your favorite Civil War general? If you answered Grant or Sherman, you were judged unqualified to vote (OK, I made up that last bit). But my point is that punch card voting as literacy or intelligence test -- even if that were its intent (which it is not) -- would fail to screen out any humans. It's too easy to pass. I have been all over the world and have met people of every race and class -- from primitive South American tribal peoples to degenerate European ex-nobles. I have never met a human who wasn't smart enough to put a stick through a hole. Even Swedish weapons inspectors could figure that one out.

Not that there is anything wrong with literacy tests. A fair test that did not invidiously discriminate against anyone would be a fine proposition. In fact, I could propose a good test right here. Every aspiring voter should be asked to write out the Pledge of Allegiance. Punctuation would not count, and each applicant would be permitted up to 10 spelling mistakes. I'm trying to calibrate the test to the standards of the average government-run high school. Should applicants object to expressing any support for the country in which they aspire to vote, they could be given the alternative test of spelling "conscientious objector" -- but they've got to get that one 100 percent right.

I suppose there will be some who argue that it is not the conceptual part of putting a stick through a hole that is so tricky but the strength required to do it: Thus, the hanging chad. Good grief, one only has to push through a piece of perforated paper. Anyone who has the strength to pick up a food stamp or extract a government check from an envelope should certainly be able to pierce perforated paper. If they didn't have that much strength, how did they get to the poll? How do they open doors or bring a spoon to the mouth? After all, when you consider the leverage one has from the shoulder all the way to the tip of the punching device, anyone with the strength to inhale should have sufficient strength to break the perforation.

But no argument is too nonsensical to not be taken seriously by left-wing judges. Let me predict, right here, that if the punch card argument fails, it won't be long before the ACLU argues that the curtain blocking the voting booth is too difficult to get through. They will argue that millions of potential voters were deterred by the curtain and just gave up trying to vote at all. Like discouraged unemployed people who have given up looking for a job, it will be theorized that our lower voter turnout rates are explainable by the phenomenon of "the curtained non-voter." If that argument fails, they will argue that the very act of choosing a candidate is discriminatory against the congenitally indecisive. To require that voters select only one from a list of candidates disenfranchises millions of indecisive Americans -- perhaps.

It would seem that left-wing lawyers are fundamentally arguing that the only problem with democracy is the stupid people. I would argue that the only thing wrong with democracy is the clever lawyers.