The Right to Vote, Not to Intention

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Amid
what has become both the most contested Presidential election in
this century and the most grievous example of liberal vote-tampering
in recent memory, Jesse Jackson last Friday was in Florida whipping
up his partisan audience by claiming that the Constitution guaranteed
the protection of the intent of the voters.

Sorry,
Jesse. I just read the relevant parts of the Constitution and didn’t
find any guarantee of the right to the intent of anybody’s vote.
I only found the right to vote. Now, it may well have been (and
may well not have been) that some voters in Palm Beach County voted
for Pat Buchanan when they intended to vote for Al Gore. It may
be that the voters who double-punched their Presidential choices
intended to vote for Gore but voted for both Buchanan and Gore (then
again, maybe not). But the Constitution doesn’t provide for anybody’s
voting intentions, only for what his vote actually is. On CNN, Pat
Buchanan acknowledged that it’s hard to believe he didn’t get some
of the votes in Palm Beach County that were intended for Gore; but
he correctly declared that those votes are his votes, because the
Constitution doesn’t guarantee the results of anybody’s intent,
only his actual vote. In simple terms, the Constitution secures
no redress for people who make mistakes on their ballot.

It’s
not a perfect world.

This
whole silly scenario points to a big contrast between liberals and
conservatives. Conservatives believe in consequences, liberals in
intentions. This means conservatives follow the rule of law, while
liberals want to manipulate the law to accomplish their objectives – in this case, the Presidency. The rule of law is laid down precisely
to eliminate as far as possible fickle and fluctuating human sentiment.
There are laws against stealing so some magistrate can’t decide
on a case-by-case basis whether it’s OK to steal. Having a government
of laws and not of men means that consequences, not intentions,
are paramount.

Now,
if the actual ballots reflect that George W. Bush won the popular
vote in Florida, he should win the state and all of its electoral
votes. That is the law. Whether 18,000 voters intended to vote for
Gore but didn’t is beside the point. We have machines count votes
precisely because machines are not Republican, Democrat, or third
party. Machines tell us who got the most votes, not who was supposed
to get the most. In this case, machines reflect the rule of law.

Behind
Jesse Jackson’s unconstitutional tripe is the presupposition that
intent take precedence over law. This is also why Al Gore’s team
got their loss into their hands of the judiciary as quickly as possible.
Liberals want liberal outcomes, not the rule of law. Most judges
today are liberal; thus, they are not interested in the law, only
in accomplishing a particular subjective outcome. The Supreme Court
invents all sorts of new “rights” in the Constitution (the so-called
“living Constitution”) because they can’t find them in the text
itself. Of course, the Constitution was written just to prevent
the very sorts of evils we are today observing: rule by somebody’s
intention rather than by the law.

If
Gore steals the election in spite of the actual count of the ballots,
we will have before us the most staggering example of lawlessness
since perhaps Roe v. Wade. The victory will have gone not to the
one who won it according the law, but to the one who won it according
to somebody’s intentions. Despite the high moral tone to the language
of intentions, they are not the province of elections.

Constitutionally,
people win elections by getting the greater number of votes, not
by getting the greater number of intended votes.

This
is the rule of law.

If
Gore wins without having gotten more votes on the ballots, it’s
the rule of law, not Bush, that’s the biggest loser.

November
15, 2000

P.
Andrew Sandlin is Executive Vice President of the Chalcedon
Foundation
which since 1965 has been dedicated to applying
historic, Biblical Christianity in today's world. He is the author
of Christianity: Bulwark of Liberty and several other works.

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