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Editor: Nate Blakeslee Managing Publisher: Charlotte McCann Office Manager: Candace Carpenter Graphic Designer: Julia Austin Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Development Director: Susan Morris Intern: Chris Womack Special Projects: Jere Locke, Nancy Williams Contributing Writers: Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Louis Dubose, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Paul Jennings, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, Jeff Mandell, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, John Ross. Staff Photographer: Alan Pogue Contributing Photographers: Jana Birchum, Vic Hinterlang, Patricia Moore, Jack Rehm. Contributing Artists: Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Valerie Fowler, Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Ben Sargent, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Bob Eckhardt, Sissy Farenthold, John K. Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Maury Maverick Jr., Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam: Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board: Molly Ivins, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Gilberto Ocaiias. The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ 2000, is published biweekly except every three weeks during January and profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone: E-mail: [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page: . Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. Subscriptions: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. VOLUME 92, NO. 22 A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES SINCE 1954 EDITORIAL A Model Democracy At press time, we have yet to select a new President. What we have done is something more extraordinary: Offered the prime-time viewing public, both here and abroad, a glimpse of how the sausage is made behind the scenes of an American election. It wasn’t pretty. Two generations after Jim Crow, we hear reports of “safety checkpoints” set up by white state troopers in rural Florida, along routes traveled by African American voters. Meanwhile, Floridians of Haitian descent are systematically told, apparently, that their names are not on the books. The Democrats have set up a hotline for voters to report “irregularities” in Florida, and Jesse Jackson is demanding a fresh vote in the affected counties. But this is just for show. The Democrats don’t really want to make their case on this basis because, as every insider knows, the Democrats are just as guilty of “irregularities,” though not of the civil rights variety. Richard Daley’s Chicago machine was famous for delivering Illinois to the Democratic presidential nominee without fail, even if it meant dead union members had to vote. Twice. Cokie Roberts joked on David Letterman forty-eight hours after election night that in her home state of Louisiana, they bury the dead above ground so it will be easier for them to get to the polls. That practice did not die with Huey Long. \(During this reporter’s brief stint as a staffer in the Texas State Senate, it was no secret that campaign workers were sometimes paid to go door to door with ballots, already filled out, ready for a signature. “Assisting elderly those international election observers we’re so fond of dispatching to Latin America are in order. Where’s Jimmy Carter? The Gore camp seems much more serious about litigating the apparently illegal “butterfly” ballot used in Palm Beach County, where every indication suggests that Gore was robbed of several thousand votes, and, in all likelihood, the Presidency. To which we say: More power to them. If voting is democracy’s finest hour, then it should not be thwarted by misleading ballots and mechanical errors. The will of the people is always paramount. Or is it? This election also exposed the distinctly antidemocratic institution known as the Electoral College. Regardless of who takes Florida’s electoral votes, Gore has won the popular vote, and as the people’s choice \(of President. The Electoral College is a relic of the early Republic, born of some distinctly undemocratic impulses. Slaveholding states were the big winners, because slaves counted toward the number of electoral votes a state was assigned, even though the slaves themselves could not vote. Nor was there any incentive to allow women to vote under the system, since they counted, too. Even today, the system assigns weight to a state based on population, regardless of how many people in the state actually vote. The overall effect of the winner-take-all system in each state is that candidates write off states in which they are not competitive, and focus all of their money, attention, and promises on the handful of swing states. At no time was that reality more evident than continued on page 17 NOTE TO READERS: In order to better synchronize our publishing schedule with next year’s election cycle, our next issue will be dated December 8. The Books & the Culture section is partially funded through grants from the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission, and the Austin Writers’ League, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. NOVEMBER 17, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3