Americans have a notoriously short attention span and their short-lived zeal to never again witness the horrendous election foul-ups of Nov. 7, 2000, has apparently faded like the once-green leaves on Minnesota trees.
In Florida, which a year ago today gained notoriety as the ground zero of election screw-ups, the Bush-Gore presidential race was decided by a razor-thin edge in votes. The statistical aberration of two candidates with a close electoral college tally and an incredibly narrow vote margin in Florida resulted in election judges hand counting and carefully eyeballing ballots. Phrases such as "hanging chads" soon become a part our national lexicon and election folk lore. Partisan crowds picketed courthouses with charges of unfair electoral practices. Calls were issued from some quarters for a new presidential election.
A year later, the third of six public hearings on election reform was conducted recently in Tallahassee and no one from the public showed up.
In one encouraging development, the state of Florida has outlawed the punchcard ballots. But foul-ups can occur with any voting machinery and in our view each state has the responsibility to see that its electoral system is as good as it reasonably can be. That much is owed to the citizens that vote.
While states should retain control of elections it's appropriate for Congress to appropriate funds to help those states that have difficulty paying for an efficient, reliable electoral system.
With a U.S. Senate that's split 51-49 every Senate race is crucial to deciding which party will be in the majority next year. Americans deserve to know that their votes count and that the vote totals in all 50 states are accurate.
Minnesota is fortunate to have a tradition of efficient, fair elections. The Gopher state's election system was singled out as one of the best in the nation Tuesday by Common Cause. Minnesota and Alaska were the only states to receive an "A" rating by the watchdog group.
The report found that less than 1 percent of the votes go uncounted in Minnesota compared to a nationwide rate of 2 percent. Our state also led the nation in voter turnout with 68.8 percent in the 2000 election.
No doubt, Minnesota's high ranking is attributable to its willingness to spend money to ensure fair elections. The state spent $1.9 million in grants this year to help communities buy optical scanning vote tabulation equipment.
Other states should follow the lead of Minnesota in election reform so we don't have another electoral nightmare like the one we experienced in Florida last November.
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