I'm now a Californian, but grew up in St. Louis County, MO. In 1964 my parents moved their primary residence to their weekend escape home in a rural county not far away. They were Republicans, and until I "woke up" after reading the Pentagon Papers, I was, too. But my first election was the 1968 presidential one. Follow me below the fold….
I was a PoliSci major at MU, and had been a student of Robert Karsch. Each election year he updated his "Government of Missouri" book with the returns from the last election; it was the text for the required course in citizenship at MU. That becomes important in the context of what happened to me that first election. My Dad had been elevated to Republican County Chairman upon joining the county committee, and he clearly had thoughts that I might pursue a career in politics. In the furtherance of that goal, he stepped aside as chief election judge at the county courthouse at the last minute -- and then named me as his replacement. It was, if you're following this story well, my first time as a voter!
Most of the judges -- well, all of them, really -- were OLD. At least to a kid who's just become old enough to vote (21 in those days). Part of the reason my Dad had been made County Chairman had to do with the fact that he was in his Fifties -- a "Young Republican" in the eyes of the rest of them! So I assumed that many might not have been as aware as I of the state election laws. In Missouri, it was clear that a vote on a paper ballot could not be counted unless two lines intersected within the box. This made an "X" -- and check marks, single lines through the box, or any variation thereof was not acceptable, and was not to be counted. Having been Bob Karsch's student, I had this down cold.
And so I began to address my fellow judges on this point of Missouri election law. Before I could get halfway through, the chief Democratic judge interrupted with a counter to what he thought was my point -- that we should adhere to the strict letter of the law. But I calmly continued by saying that I agreed with him that every possible vote of our neighbors should be counted. Further, I knew that in making every effort to discern a voter's intention and to count his or her ballot as best we were able, we would be technically breaking the election code we were deputized to enforce. My proposal was simple: ...that we all work in D/R teams to count the ballots, and that we take as broad a stance in interpretation as each pair of judges felt comfortable in taking. …that if a recount were necessary, and we were found to be out-of-line in doing so, then at least we would have adhered to one standard, and had erred in favor of the voters' intents.
I heard no more from my Democratic counterpart, and the counting of seven separate paper ballots (including one each for planning and zoning regs, and for candidates to the county hospital board, as two examples) went smoothly and efficiently. We completed our task in a timely manner and went home. There was no recount, for there were no irregularities.
And so I'm perplexed at today's Republicans. I know, I know. But still, did they never take a citizenship class? They're so enamored of quoting the Founding Fathers that they lose sight of the objective for which those men staged a revolution -- to found a democracy in which every person would have a voice in their government. Voter fraud? Aside from the ridiculous claims of massive violations, whatever case they make for laws having been broken misses the point of expanding that voice. Oh, yeah. Some law might have been broken, they say (never quite moving to show evidence of mass law-breaking…). To which I can only quote Charles Dickens:
“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.”