NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Election Here Inspires World's Fledgling Democracies

November 28, 2000

The conventional wisdom is that the ballot recounts and court challenges in Florida have given the U.S. a global black eye. Domestic editorial writers decry the "chaos," the "swamp" and the "crisis" occasioned by the ultra-close presidential vote counts in this year's presidential election.

But Americans who specialize in promoting democracy and fair elections in countries abroad see the effect quite differently. They report that the legal challenges that now characterize the current contest are the envy of many reform-minded nations around the world.

  • Patrick Merloe, director of the international elections program at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, reports that "there is a kind of envy" of our system abroad.
  • Ken Wollack, the institute's president, relates how a lawyer in Serbia told him she sat "glued to the television set" when Republican and Democratic lawyers presented their cases to the Florida Supreme Court.
  • "The thing that impresses them most is that there is a system to deal with this," observes Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute -- adding that here there is no panic, "no tanks in the streets, no National Guard on the street corners and no ring of security around the White House."
  • Craner says that while he has gotten calls from Americans advising him to send his election observers to Florida, "political leaders in emerging democracies have been heartened by the Florida process."

To be sure, some authoritarian governments have been using the confusion in Florida to discredit democracy. But emerging democracies -- which usually look to other newly democratic nations as election models -- are now studying the U.S.

Curiously, Craner points out, many U.S. states continue to use polling machines which are primitive compared to the sophisticated polling equipment employed in newer democracies -- equipment which, in fact, was developed in the U.S.

Source: Tom Carter, "Election Observers Say U.S. Is Envied," Washington Times, November 28, 2000.


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