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Published: Friday, 7/23/2004

No more Florida fiascos

REPORTS from Florida in advance of the November elections can prompt only thoughts of "Here we go again."

One would have thought that the embarrassing spectacle that the 2000 elections in Florida presented, and the serious damage it did to Americans' confidence in our electoral process, would have prompted Floridians to take the necessary action to ensure that the 2004 elections would be squeaky clean in their credibility.

Instead we get trouble with voting machines and, the latest outrage, an effort on the part of Florida's electoral authorities to sweep the voters' rolls of felons - African-American felons who would probably vote Democrat, that is; not Hispanic felons, who would likely vote Republican.

That unhappy enterprise was fortunately abandoned when the list of candidate non-voters was squeezed out of the Florida government.

Federal-level concern over that caper has prompted an investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission into what or who inspired it.

Unless one wishes to subscribe to a conspiracy theory that says that the Bush Administration wants Florida to remain an electoral shambles so it will have the possibility of cooking the 2004 elections through the state's 27 electoral college votes, the fact that the process is still a mess there nearly four years later is inexplicable.

The reality of the current situation is that an unreliable, malfunctioning electoral system in a key state governed by the brother of one of the presidential candidates risks once again throwing that state's and the nation's election results into major confusion.

We are not talking about the election of Chief Alligator Catcher of Okeechobee County. Nor is the United States a banana republic.

The mandate of the current president of the United States still remains in some doubt four years later because of the nonsense that came out of Florida the last time. That must not happen again. If it weren't grossly unjust to Florida's 17 million citizens, one could argue that the state's votes simply not be included in the electoral college tally if it messes up again.

Rather than that, the federal government must step in decisively right now to force Florida's authorities, starting with the First Brother, to fix the voting system so that Floridians and the rest of America can have confidence that in November we will not be looking at tainted results from Florida again, forcing us to scramble to try to figure out who won the presidency. Once was one time too many.

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