THOSE 'CONFUSING' FLORIDA BALLOTS

There are arrows pointing to the punch-holes, for crying out loud! Why did Palm Beach County Floridians find their presidential-election ballots so confusing?

There are arrows pointing to the punch-holes, for crying out loud! Why did Palm Beach County Floridians find their presidential-election ballots so confusing?

At this writing, on Nov. 9, it remained uncertain whether Texas Gov. George W. Bush or Vice-Pres. Al Gore won the US presidential election conducted 2 days earlier.

The difference in the popular vote was only 193,324 votes nationwide, favoring Gore. But results from Florida, initially favoring Bush, remained subject to recount. Whichever candidate won Florida's 25 electoral votes would win the presidency.

While the recount progressed, controversy erupted over allegedly confusing ballots in Palm Beach County.

Some number of voters there feared they had punched the wrong holes because of the ballot's design.

Democrats went berserk. US Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) said he saw "hundreds" of voters "hysterical" from fear they might have voted for Reform Party Candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Gore.

He said 19,120 ballots cast in Palm Beach County had to be rejected because they contained selections for more than one candidate apiece.

Bill Daley, chairman of the Gore campaign, wailed about the "disenfranchisement of more than 20,000 voters in the state of Florida."

Three Palm Beach County voters filed a lawsuit complaining that the ballots were "deceptive, misleading, and confusing."

CNN posted a copy of the ballot on its web site. To be frank, there's precious little there to be confused about.

There's a column of punch-holes in the ballot's center. Horizontal blocks containing party and candidate names alternate in step fashion down the left and right sides of the hole column. Bold arrows in each block point clearly to the appropriate holes.

You find the names you like. You follow the arrow. You punch the hole. Where's the confusion?

In this ballot designed and defended by a Democrat, somebody might well have punched the wrong hole or more than one hole. It's hard to see how, but it probably happened in Palm County, Fla. It probably happened in many counties.

People make mistakes. Life goes on...

...Except for the easily deceived, misled, and confused. They file lawsuits.

The outcome of a national election must never turn on such helplessness.

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