Friday, January 07, 2005

Logic 101

by Rich Miles

January 7, 2005

In Washington state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi led his Democratic opponent by 42 votes on Election Day. Despite state law mandating a recount because of the closeness of the result, Rossi claimed victory, and resisted the recount even in the face of numerous reports of voting and vote counting irregularities. A win by 42 votes was just fine with him, thank you very much, the people have spoken, let's move on. And in the inevitable recount, when his opponent drew closer, he continued to insist that "the voters had spoken", and no further recount was needed. Finally, when a third recount, conducted under closer scrutiny than the first two, gave his opponent a victory, he decided that recounts weren't such a bad thing after all, and indeed what was needed was not a recount, but a revote.

In Ohio, now known as the "Florida of 2004", more than 40,000 reports of voting and vote counting irregularities were received by election authorities. Some reports suggested at least the possibility that these irregularities, if corrected, could have resulted in a victory for John Kerry, which would have meant a John Kerry presidency. Despite all these indications, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who like Katherine Harris of Florida in 2000, was the state chairman of President Bush's reelection campaign, has actually gone so far as to defy a legitimate court subpoena in order to avoid having all the voting irregularities in Ohio cleared up.

And in Kentucky, the Republican-controlled state Senate, under the banner of "the will of the people", has refused to invalidate the election of a state senate candidate, despite a very clear constitutional provision making her ineligible even to run in the election.

So what have we learned from all this?

In the study of logic, for those of you who didn't take that very popular course in school, there is a thing called a "syllogism". In short, a syllogism is a line of logical argument that can be stated in the form "If A and B, then C”. I mention this because, in the three examples above, we have a perfect syllogism:

- People who don't wish to have all the votes counted in an election, or who are willing to overlook the law as long as it benefits THEIR candidate, are not really interested in the "will of the people" so much as they are interested in pulling a fast one on the people.

- Republicans, far more often than Democrats, don't wish to have all the votes counted, and are willing to overlook the law to their candidates' benefit.

- Therefore, Republicans are trying to pull a fast one on the people.

This has happened too many times now for it to be coincidence. In nearly 100% of the disputed cases relating to the 2004 elections, Republicans have wanted NOT to count all the votes, and Democrats have wanted to count them as accurately as possible, despite considerable resistance including a Republican congressman actually saying on the floor of the House of Representatives, that people who question the vote in 2004 were "aiding the terrorists".

So again, what do we learn from this?

It seems clear to me. How democracy can ever be served by NOT counting the votes in any election for any office, or by not insuring that the election was conducted as freely and fairly as possible, or by not espousing a thorough investigation of any irregularities, is a concept I simply cannot understand.

"The people have spoken"? "It's time to move on"? "Get over it"?

Not just yet. But thanks for your concern.

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