Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Florida, USA, and challenges to our concept of democracy

Florida and presidential elections. Though in the media, these words have been linked agains and again in recent months, do these words really go together? It seems not.

We're in for another messy election, with people already gearing up for the outrage that they expect will come. African Americans being purged from the elligible voters' lists, Cuban American felons added to those same lists, controversies about the voting machines, disputes over authority lines, we're seeing it all.

This morning I read about a different dispute, one that I find a bit more complex and worthy of discussion. An ABC news story titled Voters' dual registration remains a problem in Florida identifies the controversy over the lists showing that soome voters are registered to vote in more than one state.

When you first consider this issue, the natural reaction is to be upset. How can people be registering in more than one state? Isn't that illegal? Isn't that unfair?

However, another aspect of this story strikes me. What are people who possess property in more than one state to do? If I am a New Yorker who owns a winter home in Miami, where exactly should I be a resident? Doesn't owwning property give me a stake in the local elections? Shouldn't my vioce count in the decisions that dictate what taxes I will be paying next year or what my property will ultimately be worth?

This is a more complicated issue than it appears. I can see that it makes sense for people to be able to vote in different local and state elections, but how do you allow that and guard against multiple votes cast for the presidency? And should voters get to chose which state their vote for president should be cast in (from the earlier example, I'd rather be a Floridian in this election than a New Yorker)?

Just what is the relationship between state citizenship and our status as American citizens? Where does state democracy end and federal democracy begin? As always more questions than answers ....


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