Mars lawyers, dead voters - beat goes on

 

This Dave Barry column was originally published November 3, 2004

And so, at last, the 2004 presidential campaign, which began in roughly 1997, is over. We have finally come to the end of the bitter hateful partisan viciousness that has consumed us for far too long, and we can now look forward, as a nation, to beginning a new era of bitter hateful partisan viciousness. But first let's pause for a moment to express our support, as Americans, for the man we have elected as our next president, even if we did not vote for him, or do not - in my case, anyway - know who he is.

For all I know, we elected Cher. My deadline for this column was 8:30 election night, and as I write these words, the networks are refusing to make any predictions about who won. They don't want to repeat the fiasco of election night 2000, when they appeared to be getting their voting-return data from a Magic Eight Ball. So this time around they were being extremely careful about how they worded things:

TOM BROKAW: Let's turn to our political editor, Tim Russert. Tim, what's your expert analysis of the returns at this point?

RUSSERT: I can't say, Tom.

BROKAW: You mean it's too soon?

RUSSERT: I wouldn't go that far, Tom.

BROKAW: So you can't tell us anything?

RUSSERT: Reply hazy, Tom. Try again.

DEAD RECKONING

On a brighter note, the voting seemed to go fairly smoothly here in Florida. This was a concern because of the way we screwed up the last election by casting thousands upon thousands of mutant ballots on which we apparently selected nobody for president, or two people for president, or Millard Fillmore for president, etc.

But this time it went pretty well. Where I voted, in Miami-Dade County, there was a longish line, but it moved steadily, with the dead voters being dragged forward by helpful poll workers. Eventually I got into the voting booth and cast my ballot on one of those new computer touch-screen machines, which was kind of fun, especially the part at the end when you push the red button and the little Pac-Man character scoots around the screen eating all the votes. (If this did not happen when you voted, your machine was defective, and you should file a lawsuit immediately.)

CREOLE IS CLEARER

My biggest voting problem was understanding the ballot questions. I had studied them ahead of time on a sample ballot; it was printed in various languages, and without question the clearest version was the one in Creole. The English version was apparently written by lawyers from Mars. One ballot question, which I am not making up, was worded as follows:

"Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to require the sponsor of a constitutional amendment proposed by citizen initiative to file the initiative petition with the Secretary of State by February 1 of the year of a general election in order to have the measure submitted to the electors for approval or rejection at the following November's general election, and to require the Florida Supreme Court to render an advisory opinion addressing the validity of an initiative petition by April 1 of the year in which the amendment is to be submitted to the electors."

I voted against that one, because it's 94 words long and has no verb in it that I can detect. I would have voted for the death penalty for whoever wrote it, but as far as I know that was not a ballot question.

I voted in favor of the question about slot machines, solely because the Creole term for "slot machine" is machin jakpot.

I also, of course, voted for president. I believe I made the right choice, and I hope that when we finally determine the outcome of this election - if we ever do - my candidate will emerge victorious. Because I believe that now, more than ever before in this nation's history, we need a leader with vision, courage, experience, resiliency and - above all - a really big wardrobe.

President Cher.

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