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Jewish World Review March 12, 2001/ 17 Adar 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Consumer Reports

Getting punch drunk on disappointment -- ONLY yesterday you couldn't buy a decent bottle of champagne in any Democratic precinct anywhere. Everyone had put down a cellar to prepare to celebrate the evaporation of George W. Bush and all around him.

Democratic ladies were out shopping for gowns to wear to Hillary's presidential inaugural, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle measured Denny Hastert's and Trent Lott's offices for new carpets, Jeb Bush and every Republican in Florida were measured for nooses and the Rev. Jesse Jackson saddled up to ride the crest of a new wave of civil-rights outrage back to respectability. And Democrats couldn't wait to recount Florida.

What a difference a month makes.

George W. Bush is on his way to winning his tax cut, a tax cut and a congressional triumph big enough to give him the momentum for more to come. The Clinton scandals have so demoralized Democrats that they're beginning to talk about their prospects for 2002 in the past tense, Hillary has become a national joke and Jesse Jackson is beginning to crowd Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart in the pantheon of shyster preachers.

Not only is the recounting in Florida not going well George W. picks up votes every time another recount is finished the more everyone looks into the stories of oppression of black voters there ("worse than Selma," Jesse Jackson assured us) the more it looks like the only thing it's worse than is the hype over how we all melted, drowned or froze with the dawn of the millennium. Nobody's seen a Y2K bug in months.

What we had in Florida, we were told only yesterday, was a conspiracy (probably hatched by 140-year-old Confederate soldiers) to deprive blacks of their voting rights in the year 2000.

This was to be accomplished in two stages. Roadblocks would be set up near polling places to delay black voters until it was too late to vote, and, here's the diabolical part, punch-card voting machines would be employed to confuse the few blacks who could manage to trickle into the booths before closing time. In the event, the scheme was so successful that only twice as many blacks voted in 2000 than in 1996.

Now two professors have completed a study that demonstrates how Election Day 2000 was, from Jesse Jackson's point of view, worse than he could imagine. Everything he has been saying about punch-card voting is a lie.

Martha Kropf, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Stephen Knack, an associate fellow of the Center for Institutional Reform at the University of Maryland, conclude that "there is little support for the view that resource constraints cause poorer counties with large minority populations to retain antiquated or inferior voting equipment." Stripped of professor talk, "it's not poor blacks being mistreated, but prosperous whites."

The derelict machines, if that's what they are, are in counties with large Republican majorities. Blacks actually tend to live in the counties with the latest technology, and in fact it's Hispanics who are more likely to vote with punch-card machines. But that's because most of them live in Los Angeles County, California, where the machines are well thought of and nobody wants to get rid of them.

Not only that, say the professors, counties with punch-card machines tend to show higher incomes, higher tax revenues and larger populations than counties with more modern equipment, and, statistically speaking, the presence of large black populations significantly reduces the probability that such counties will employ punch-card machines. Other than that, Jesse was right.

Maybe this will teach him to beware of reckless racial profiling, but we shouldn't count on it.

County voting officials far from Florida are puzzled by the hype over punch-card voting. "What we need to do is get away from the hysteria and start thinking about how we educate the voter better," says Connie McCormack, the elections registrar in Los Angeles County, who presides over the 37,000 punch-card machines that collect the votes of 4.1 million Angelenos.

Ernest Hawkins, the registrar of Sacramento County, California, and the president of the National Association of County Clerks and Election Officials, is not so much puzzled as defiant: "I'm not getting rid of them."

Punch cards have drawbacks, but optical scanners are no better and touch-screen voting needs refinement. "It's foolish to do a wholesale changeover from punch cards just because of the difficulties in the last election," says Julie Anne Kempf, the superintendent of elections in Seattle.

Hysterical foolishness or not, hysteria and foolishness may be all the Democrats have going for them. It's enough to make a frustrated Democrat wave the Confederate flag.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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03/05/01: How can a real gent tell the lady no?
02/28/01: Who won that war? Best not to look
02/26/01: Bonnie & Clod, gifts who keep on giving
02/21/01: It's Hot Springs week in downtown Harlem
02/13/01: Some of our riots seem to be missing
02/07/01: When a hate crime is something to love
02/07/01: Lifting a few spoons, cutting a few taxes
02/02/01: A few small surprises and a large lesson
01/31/01: Serving fried crow in the press mess
01/26/01: The gathering storm over Jesse Jackson
01/23/01: A graceless getaway, a graceful beginning
01/19/01: Once more to wave the bloody shirt
01/16/01: Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready
01/12/01: The dastardly plot to restore slavery
01/10/01: Mr. Lott's generosity to the Dems
01/05/01: Looking to the past for a bad example
01/03/01: A modest proposal for Arkansas folk
12/19/00: The reflexive sneer at George W. Bush
12/15/00: Taking inspiration from John Birch
12/12/00: It's time to raise high Florida's standards
12/08/00: A President Bush, and about time, too
12/05/00: Here come the judge --- and he's got a hook
11/28/00: Cry no tears for Al, lawyers are the losers
11/21/00: The useful loathing of America's sons
11/17/00: When this is all over, we spray for lawyers
11/14/00: Something murky in the twilight zone

11/10/00: Something sinister in Palm Beach

11/07/00: Low days in the life of the ruptured duck

11/06/00: A little race baiting in the final hours

11/01/00: Creator gets a hard time on the hustings

10/27/00: The sorcerer rides to rescue his apprentice

10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell

10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights

10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools

10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief

10/06/00: AlGore's black problem

10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote

10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio

09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp

09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes

09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply

09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'

09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye

09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset

09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap

08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal

08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost

08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash

08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme

08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser

08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy

07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers

07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself

07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?

07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?

07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit

07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink

07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season

07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results

07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate

06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!

06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve

06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman

06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat

06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation

06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'

06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch

06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak

05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper

05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks

05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes

05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example

05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans

05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales

05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man

05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat

05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary

04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood

04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks

04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go

04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno

04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)

04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts

03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table

03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day

03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult

03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology

03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain

03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden