A very difficult day


From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

This day has been a total emotional roller coaster ride. I woke up at 5 a.m. completely paranoid. I knew with absolutely certainty that the Republicans were going to steal this election. That belief lodged in my mind with absolute clarity, the way 5 a.m. beliefs always do. So I said to myself, York, you’re nuts. It’s a fantasy. It’s going to be OK. This is America. We believe in democracy and it works.

So I started surfing away on the Internet and I read the Washington Post, the New York Times, and googled all the news stories. I felt better. It turns out that, after the past disastrous experiences and the bad predictions, the news media got together and decided to let the Associated Press, which is a cooperative of all the major and many of the minor papers, handle the whole country. Also, a new consolidated exit polling operation has been set up and the AP is tracking the numbers in all the states-no one is going to predict a winner until all the polls are closed. AP employees and stringers are out all over the country. The entire purpose is to keep it accurate and keep the system from being gamed. The AP count is, of course, not the official count, but it’s damn close.

Feeling somewhat better that at least a decent system was in place; at 7 a.m. sharp I went to vote. Incredibly, there was a line and every cubicle was full. Clearly, this was going to be a massive turnout.

This made me feel much better. Then I went to Diedrich to get some coffee and opened up the Los Angeles Times and immediately crashed. It seems the Court of Appeals for Ohio had overruled the lower courts and would allow challenges inside the polling booths. I had visions of people confronting each other with guns. Suddenly the depression came back and hung there all morning.

At lunch, I started to make notes for this column and realized that probably the most significant thing about this election was how unpredictable it was. The reason that was the case is because the nation is so split it is impossible to predict turnouts. Election turnouts usually follow a pattern, but everyone is so energized and angry that no one knows if that would change the turnout numbers significantly. For example, in the 2000 presidential race, roughly 105 million people voted. This election looks like it might break all turnout records, with a 55 percent or 60 percent turnout predicted, which would mean 125 million voters. That’s 20 million more than last time in 2000.

That’s what’s making the pollsters crazy and making all the predictions suspect. We all had a pretty good idea about how that 105 million would vote, but no one was sure who this 20 million would be and what they would do.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, it looks as if Bush has taken Florida and is leading in Ohio.

Yes, it is difficult to predict.