by Tom Mitsoff
It was a year ago this week that that term Ė
referring to the little rectangle punched out from a paper ballot Ė
became part of U.S. election lore. If it didnít fully separate from
the paper ballot, it was considered hanging, or maybe dimpled. Some
election officials interpreted an unseparated chad as voter
indecision. And it was one of the reasons our nation was left
hanging for more than a month, not knowing whom our next president
The importance of fully separating your chads
was just one of many lessons we learned from last yearís election.
We learned that certain election procedures
needed close review and reform in many cases.
We learned that candidates who donít win on
first blush (or second blush or third blush) can turn to the courts
for assistance. And thatís something that the founding fathers
probably NEVER intended when they devised their three-branched
governmental structure Ė having the court system decide an election.
The electorate was supposed to be who put individuals into elected
But the most important lesson we learned is
that the right to vote is not to be taken for granted. If you donít
get out to vote, you have no right to be upset with the results.
We learned that every vote can make a
difference. That will be the enduring lesson of the 2000 election.
But just one year after all of these lessons
were learned, weíre still reeling in the aftermath of our nationís
darkest hour. We worry about alleged threats to blow up suspension
bridges in California, as well we should. We would be daft to
consider such acts unthinkable, because nothing is unthinkable any
We worry about receiving toxic spores in our
mail, because many people are.
We worry about our economy, with staggering
unemployment figures affecting hundreds of thousands of individuals
and families nationwide. We worry about our businesses, small and
large, that find themselves in a full-blown recession / correction /
dip / put in your own descriptive word here.
And while we are understandably preoccupied,
we need to remember what happened one year ago this week. Prior to
Sept. 11, it was unthinkable that the election lessons of last year
could have been forgotten. And if we forget to vote or just decide
not to go to vote, you can chalk up another victory for Osama bin
Ladin and Al-Qaita in again disrupting our way of life.
Letís not let that happen. Letís not let
terrorism negatively affect our election process. Letís make it just
the opposite Ė letís set records for turnout in off-year elections.
Let that news filter into some cave in Afghanistan with a very
defined exclamation point. The message would be, You won the battle,
but you havenít and wonít win the war.
And if you vote in a precinct that uses
paper-punch ballots, do yourself and everyone a favor. Make sure all
of your chads are fully separated.
Tom Mitsoff is a daily newspaper editor and syndicated
editorial columnist. His web address is