US Presidential Elections: Texas, the Easiest Place on the Planet to Vote

By Davenport, Elaine | The Independent (London, England), November 5, 1996 | Go to article overview
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US Presidential Elections: Texas, the Easiest Place on the Planet to Vote


Davenport, Elaine, The Independent (London, England)


AUSTIN - Election day has arrived. I'll cycle to my precinct's polling place at the local elementary school today, present my voter registration card, choose from several identical ballots arrayed on a table, go to a private cubicle, pick up the special soft-leaded pencil and start filling in the ovals. That's what all the fuss has been about for the past 10 weeks, if not four years.

An interesting wrinkle is that I could show up with no identification, say I was someone else, and if the name matched the list of registered voters, I would be given a ballot paper. "The poll workers are not there to stop people from voting," said a local election official. "Any fraud would be determined later." By whom, I wonder.

First on my ballot paper is the chance to cast a straight-party vote, choosing Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Natural Law or US Taxpayers. The three non-mainstream parties are a mystery to most voters. The Libertarian Party, one of the country's most viable third parties along with Ross Perot's Reform Party, wants government out of all aspects of life except the military, police and prisons and would eliminate income tax. The Natural Law Party believes good government can be achieved through science and transcendental meditation. The US Taxpayers Party, just four years old, courted Pat Buchanan as its presidential candidate because of his ultra-conservative views. If I skip the straight-party option, my first vote is for president and vice-president. I can write in a name in this category, meaning that I can add a name - any name - of my choice on the line provided. The Texas polls are showing a statistical dead-heat between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. That the race should be this close is unusual in a state that has not given its 32 electoral votes (only California, with 54, and New York, with 33, have more) to a Democrat since Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. Then I make a choice for a US senator. Most agree that Phil Gramm, Republican, who is 22 points ahead in the polls over Victor Morales, Democract, will win.

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