Another Perspective

HAVA Heart!

The Help America Vote Act has turned Election Day into an ugly joke.

By 11.1.04

Or better yet, regain your head, and insist on a re-visitation of the quietly-passed federal law that insists all sentient persons within the parameters of America's 193,000 polling places have an unchallengeable right to cast a ballot in this election.

In the wake of the 2000 Florida follies, with their hanging chads and peering election officials, our leaders assembled a National Commission on Federal Election Reform to study voting practices nationwide. Their compendium of proposed solutions was hammered into legislation, the Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) and it became law in October of 2002.

The essence is this: polling places must allow persons with a pulse to vote, whether registered, eligible, or wanted. If they are present, they are owed a "provisional ballot." Tens of thousands of provisional ballots have been cast and many thousands more will be on election day. Then it will be up to the election officials to determine whether the provisional should be counted. How and when this is to be done is up to the individual state. (Pennsylvania specifies the determination will take place within three days, and the provisional voter may then telephone and determine if his ballot has passed muster, that is if he can get past the lawyers calling the same number.)

Lawyers by the thousands have already heeded the call to join "Election Protection Attorney Networks" to assist the process of the provisionals. ABC News has estimated the election protection battalions will number 30,000 by Election Day. Not all are simply doing their duty as legal eagle enforcers of an unbiased standard; many are being organized by politically-based groups hoping for a given result.

Which raises the question; just whenis election day, anyway? Used to be November 2, first Tuesday. But people have been voting provisionally for weeks. This is entirely separate from the established principle of absentee balloting. What happens if the provisional voter dies after casting his ballot(s)? What if he is in the interim convicted of a felony (again)?

What if...? What if, and this may be the case, the result of the election of a President is contained within those stacks of provisional ballots in the so-called "battleground states"? And each state has its own schedule for reviewing the eligibility of the unknown thousands? We'll need more lawyers, unless of course we have heeded a Shakespearean suggestion regarding "First thing we do…"

Well and good. But "Next thing we do…": Let's review the bidding on who decided on this enfranchisement of God-knows-who and more importantly, who voted yea and nay when it came up in 2002. Names, please, if only provisionally.

Meanwhile, let us recall that the United States is not a European principality with nothing to do but conduct elections over three and four days. Return with us now to yesteryear and the principle of "One man, one vote." And one day in which to do it.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.