Sunday, November 19, 2000

Local voters want fairness in election

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Eventually, America will have a new president.

        But whether it's President Bush or President Gore for the next four years, the new leader of the United States will face voters — even their own supporters — who feel cheated by the process.

        After countless civic lessons that everybody's vote counts comes the revelation that some votes aren't counted at all. Amid allegations of voter fraud and mismanagement are admissions that these kinds of things happen every election — just normally, nobody is watching.

        On the streets of Greater Cincinnati, voters from both parties say they can accept the outcome — any outcome — as long as they believe their voices are heard and the process is fair.

        “The farther (the election) gets from counting votes to counting court decisions, the farther it gets from the simple democratic process,” says Dr. Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University. ""That begins to erode people's trust in the process.”

        Jackie Voll, 46, of Sayler Park, is a stalwart Republican, and like the rest of the country, she followed the roller coaster on Election Night.

        But if Al Gore becomes president, “I don't think I'll vote again,” she says.

        Frustrated by the antics of lawyers and disillusioned with the election process, Mrs. Voll says she's come to think the election is less about fairness and more about who whines the loudest.

        Fairness is a prized value for Americans, says Dr. W. Michael Nelson, chair of Xavier's psychology department. Rules on the basketball court are designed to make the game fair; equal opportunity laws are aimed at leveling the playing field for minorities. Campaign finance reform is rooted in fairness. So, too, is democracy.

        “Most people want to have a fair (election),” Dr. Nelson says. “It's something that both parties can point to and say, "This was a fair process. If I won, fine. If I lost, fine. But the American people have decided.'”

        The problem arises when voters don't view the process as fair and impartial. Then the outcome is tainted.

        Lesley Jones, 33, of Northside, is convinced of a conspiracy to silence the minority vote.

        “It's a way to say to people, "We still can control your destiny. You all may want (Gore), but we're going to put in who we want,'” Ms. Jones says.

        Loveland resident Lynn Mangan, 30, doesn't like that Mr. Bush appears to have lost the popular vote. But she thinks Mr. Bush should be president. The current process — even if flawed slightly — still is the fairest, she says.

        The challenge for whomever emerges as victor is to reunite a country deeply divided, says Dr. David B. Lipsky, a professor at the Institute on Conflict Resolution at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

        “They're both so focused on ending up the victor, they're willing to sacrifice some of their ability to govern,” he says.

        The candidates “are trying to gussy up what they want in terms of more noble objectives, but we all know what they want — they want a victory.”


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