Three umpires

There is an old story about the three baseball umpires, discussing how they make calls. The first said, "I call them as I see them." The second, "I call them as they are." The third, "They ain't nothin' until I call 'em." This story is full of meaning, but it also bears on the current Florida vote count. The attitude of many people seems to be that the third umpire has it right. Namely, the reality of what happened doesn't matter, and what we need is a decision.

But there is a reality. Voters went to the polls and believed that they were voting for one person or another. The intentions of many Gore voters (but not, apparently, Bush voters) were foiled by a bad layout. This error could have been prevented either by the voters themselves or by the designers of the ballot.

If this were a faulty consumer product, and if it failed because of a combination of poor design and user error, the law would allocate responsibility to one side or the other. But the issue is between the consumer and the producer. Here, the issue is not just between the voter and the county. It affects all of us. The law may say that only the voter has standing, because it is the voter's right to vote that is at issue. The rest of us need not take this point of view.

I urge patience. It is not necessarily true that some decision is better than no decision, for a few days or even weeks.

Jon Baron, Nov. 11, 2000