The national participation in the election this year reached 51 percent, which means that almost one-half of eligible voters didn't even try to vote. Question: If voting is so clearly a necessary act of vindicated citizenship, why is curiosity so great about John, whose vote was untranscribed, and not about James, who made no attempt to realize his voting right?
The New York Times' editorial page assures us that the huge curiosity over the Florida vote -- there are many organizations engaged in their own vote-counting -- has nothing really to do with the election of a new president. That job has been done and certified. The motivating force for the re-recount is a concern to discover whether there were patterns of injustice from which black Americans especially suffered. It is held that in some districts voting machines were crankier than in others, and that face-to-face with such machines, some voters simply gave up and went home. And lo! These machines are regularly located in areas of higher black concentration.
Does that add up to a violation of the Voting Rights Act? The immediate answer to that question is: Yes -- if the intention of the voting-machine providers was to discourage the black vote. But if there are Model A voting machines that are easy and efficient, and Model F voting machines that are less user-friendly, political iniquity is not proven. The likelier explanation is that we have another instance of poorer sections of town having more potholes than more affluent sections of town, from which distribution of municipal solicitude we can draw the usual conclusions, but these do not tell us that a deprivation of the vote, based on equal voting rights for everybody, has been proven.
In this space a few weeks back, the motion was made, unsuccessfully, that we sequester the approximately 60,000 ballots, rather than treat them like the Alger Hiss typewriter or the Sacco-Vanzetti pistol. If the results of the new recount have the effect of increasing the size of Bush's vote, no harm is done. If they have the effect of suggesting that Florida belonged to Gore, what have we got that will please other than the National Enquirer and the NAACP? Why not explore the rumor that a majority of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence were drunk?
The impulse to explore and re-explore the Florida vote springs from the democratic faddism that overtook us in the past generation. The Supreme Court decided in 1962 (Baker vs. Carr) that every person had to be counted equally, thus causing, or trying to, a redistricting athwart many arrangements which were the fruit of political and social compromise. In 1965 we got a Voting Rights Act that forbade a state to insist that the voter know how to read. In 1971 we had a constitutional amendment that gave the vote to 18-year-olds. Most recently we have the so-called motor-voter contrivance, relieving potential voters of the ordeal of registering for the vote.
How about -- in our mad statistic-driven age -- extrapolating the vote? If 49 percent of Catholics who voted went for Gore, why not give Gore 49 percent of Catholics who did not vote? To go in the other direction would be to require everyone who voted for Gore to be able to spell Gore.