By Todd Wels
Triplicate staff writer
With Vice President Al Gores concession speech Wednesday night, Americas long presidential election nightmare was finally over.
Del Norte County political activists responded with some amazement, some understanding, and a lot of relief that it was all over with.
Yeah, its an emotional roller coaster, said Del Norte County Supervisor Chuck Blackburn, no stranger to close elections.
In the 1998 primary, he faced off against three other candidates, and initial returns showed him with the 50 percent majority required to avoid a runoff in November.
Then the absentee ballots came in.
I came out seven votes short, he said with a chuckle.
He and his wife were putting away his campaign signs when the announcement that he had not, in fact, won the election came through.
There was no inkling in my mind of a recount, Blackburn said, noting however, that the waiting period was hell.
Blackburn said he could identify with Bush and Gore, due to the closeness of that first election.
Of course, this is just small potatoes compared with that, he said.
The small number of votes separating the two men, in addition to the fact that Gore actually received 300,000 more votes in the popular vote has led some to question whether Bushs presidency will have an air of illegitimacy, especially after his campaign successfully appealed to the courts to shut down Florida state recounts.
Bob Berkowitz, the former First District Field Representative to Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, said thats not the case.
We have counted the votes, Berkowitz said regarding the more than 10,000 undervotes, in which no candidate was chosen for President. Weve counted them numerous times.
Berkowitz said he agreed with the U.S. Supreme Courts ruling that, without an objective standard, any recounting that attempts to divine the will of the voter based upon dimpled or hanging chads would be unconstitutional.
I felt mortally wounded, not on the outcome of who won, but that the U.S. Supreme Court would cave in to politics, said County Supervisor Martha McClure, a Democrat.
She also stated her belief that as many as 10,000 Florida voters were disenfranchised and that there would be no way of knowing what those votes were.
I dont know what I would do if I were in one of those precincts, thinking that maybe that (her vote) didnt count, she said. I would want someone to examine that.
She disagreed with Berkowitzs (and the Supreme Courts) assertion that recounts held without a unifying standard is unfair and unconstitutional.
There is no unifying standard in any state, she said.
Both McClure and Berkowitz said they see some good coming out of the election, though.
I believe were going to see some movement at the federal level to re-assess the Electoral College and standardize elections, McClure said.
Berkowitz said this election proves the existing system works well.
After five weeks of this, were still intact, he said, adding: I would have been just as pleased if Gore had won. Its the process that counts.
Berkowitz and McClure also agreed that five weeks is not an unreasonable waiting period to wait to find out the outcome of an election.
McClure pointed out President Rutherford B. Hayes was not aware of the outcome of the 1876 election until the day before he was inaugurated.
In democracies, thats what you get, Berkowitz said, adding that the only system more efficient is that of a dictatorship, which he would oppose.
Believe it or not, this is good for the country, he said. If this were a banana republic, there would be tanks in the streets.
Del Norte Countys Democratic Party chairman Kevin Hendrick summed up the level of interest in the current election, both locally and nationally best:
Its been fascinating to watch, he said.