The majority that counts

Yes, we have a certified winner in Florida, but the byword for the presidential election of 2000 is still patience. There's a bit more to come.

That's partly thanks to George W. Bush himself, the presumptive winner in Florida. His appeal of the state Supreme Court decision regarding hand-counting of ballots will be heard this Friday by the US Supreme Court.

The outcome of that case will be important, but not necessarily conclusive. The court agreed to consider relatively narrow matters of federal law concerning the state role in presidential elections. If its ruling favors Bush, nothing changes, since he's already certified as the Florida winner. If it favors Al Gore, the vice president's legal strategy will simply steam ahead.

That strategy now is focused on contesting election results in a number of Florida counties where Mr. Gore believes he was shortchanged on votes. Such contests are allowed by Florida law, though they've never been exercised before in a presidential race. The process could again lead to the Florida Supreme Court - and, conceivably, back to the US high court in Washington.

But it has an end point. Dec. 12 is the deadline for submitting state electoral votes to the Electoral College. On Dec. 18, that body does its voting.

Before those dates arrive, there are a few things we'd like to see.

First, out of deference to the legal processes still under way, let's have less partisan posturing, less maneuvering to appear "presidential," and more emphasis on reconciliation and on the need to graciously step aside when the time comes. That will support the rule of law.

Second, let's emphasize the lessons that should come from this election. Paramount are the need to move toward more uniform, accurate means of voting and the media's obligation to act more responsibly in reporting election results.

Third, let's honor the real heroes of this story. Not the partisan few who demonstrate against vote counters, scream about "stolen elections," or denigrate their opponents' belief in democracy. But the overwhelming majority of Americans who continue to demonstrate a willingness and desire to see a fair resolution to an extraordinary election.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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