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All Americans are citizens of Florida's 13th

Published: Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 13:08

As reports of the horrific Thanksgiving Day violence in Baghdad's civil war (at least two hundred dead) hit doorstops last Friday, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a nation of laws and domestic tranquility.

"Thanksgiving reminds us that the true strength of our Nation is the compassion and decency of our people," President Bush remarked that Saturday. He had not and did not make any substantial comment on the mass slaughter in Sadr City two days before. "As we count our blessings," he added, "we remember that those blessings are meant to be shared." For some reason, he neglected to add: "unless you intend to vote for a Democrat."

For on Nov. 7, as many as 18,000 votes were destroyed by paper trail-less electronic voting machines in Florida's 13th Congressional District, according to widely published reports. As a Nov. 26 New York Times editorial titled "Déjà Vu in Florida" noted, "If the machines are to be believed - a big if - an extraordinary 14.9 percent of Sarasota County voters using the machines decided to skip the congressional race ... Among the absentee ballots, which were cast on paper, the undervotes were a more plausible 2.5 percent."

The Times rightly concluded that, since the official vote count favored the Republican candidate by a mere 369 votes, "There is a good chance that if something went wrong it changed the result." Of course, the fact that there is reason to believe that "something went wrong" is itself a failure.

To my mind, the happiest possible explanation for this mess is that in spite of a broad and informed consensus of experts alerting our leaders to the dangers of unverifiable digital balloting, the president and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, were key players in a conspiracy of Constitutional negligence. A less trusting (but perhaps more plausible) scenario is that the Bush family encourages the spread of faulty voting machines with the express hope of manipulating the democratic process.

The president did not, to be sure, ink Florida's contracts with Election Systems and Software. But as a deeply unpopular chief executive who took the White House through a foul brew of illegal Floridian voter suppression and a blatantly partisan Supreme Court intervention, President Bush has had a clear and pressing duty to ensure that voting in America is made as transparent and reliable as possible; the result has been a deliberate failure on both his part and Governor Bush's.

The right of U.S. citizens to vote for congressional representation is (unlike the right to vote for president) codified by the Constitution. In his two inaugural oaths, President Bush, reciting a pledge the Constitution has put in presidents' mouths since George Washington first assumed the office, swore to "preserve, protect and defend" that same document.

His unabashed disinterest in the constitutionally mandated voting rights of Americans both inside and outside of Florida's 13th strikes me as a textbook case of an impeachable offense.

Matthew Diamante is a sophomore majoring in history.

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