The Right to Vote, Not to Intention

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.