The Longest Night: Polemics and Perspectives on Election 2000

By Arthur J. Jacobson; Michel Rosenfeld | Go to book overview

17
BUSH V. GORE: A VIEW FROM ITALY

Il n'est presque pas de question politique, aux É tats-Unis, qui ne se résolve tôt ou tard en question judiciaire.

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE

Electoral systems are algorithms that permit the transformation of a number of votes (N) into a smaller number of seats (n). Since the beginning of representative government, this essential mechanism of democratic states, like the right of suffrage, has been discussed extensively. 1

Very little attention has been given, however, to each electoral system's point of departure, perhaps because the question of how to obtain N seems settled and unproblematic. This is the problem that emerged with unsuspected virulence during the very long month from November 7, 2000, election day, to December 12, 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the American presidency should go to George W. Bush.

The question is how the votes are counted, not how they are transformed into a very small number of seats, or just one seat, as in the American presidency. It is on this seemingly banal question that the world's only superpower at the end of the second millennium got stuck, as in a giant swamp. The solution that lifted the aircraft carrier named America over the treacherous waters of the Florida count threatens, however, to discredit one of American democracy's most prestigious institutions: on December 12 the Supreme Court decided that it was too late to complete the ongoing manual vote count.

The Court's decision in Bush v. Gore is a strong candidate for being among the most incongruous and negative opinions it has issued. In Europe it has provoked a very negative opinion of American constitutional justice.

-322-

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