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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN during the election season.

Bill Press: Time to get rid of the Electoral College

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Itís not fair.

Itís not fair to George Bush, not fair to Al Gore, not fair to the American people or all of those campaign volunteers. And itís especially not fair to me. How can I write a column about what happened in this presidential election when, late the morning after, we still donít know who won?

It was a lot easier for Al Gore. All he had to do was call George Bush and retract the first phone call he made, conceding defeat. But, once published, this column can never be retracted.

Well, no matter. Full speed ahead. There are still some things to be said, no matter who ends up the winner.

Whether it's President-elect George Bush or President-elect Al Gore, there are already a few lessons to be learned from Election 2000.

First: Every vote counts. If any election proved it, this one does. Next time you hear some idiot bloviate that it doesnít matter whether or not you vote or, worse yet, that not voting is a viable option, remind him of Al Gore and George Bush. Theyíre down on their knees this morning, thanking God for every single vote -- and praying for just a few more. Theyíd even pay for more.

One by one. Every vote counts. Every vote adds up. Use it or lose it. As Americans, we canít afford not to vote.

Second lesson: you can't believe the polls and you can't believe the networks, either. The pollsters destroyed this election. There were too many of them, they were given far too much importance and their polls swung too wildly, making their methodology suspect -- nowhere more suspect than on election night. How could so-called experts predict the outcome in Florida based on exit polls, without factoring in the fact that Florida lies in two different time zones? And how could all the networks so blindly follow the pollsters into total error and humiliation?

Another powerful lesson: It's time to get rid of the electoral college. No two ways about it, it is an insult to democracy for a candidate to win the popular vote, yet lose the election and the presidency, because of the electoral college.

Of course, there are those who argue that we can't question the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Nonsense. We tend to forget the Founding Fathers weren't wise at all when it came to voting rights. They denied the vote to women and blacks. They didn't trust the people to elect U.S. senators. And they didn't trust us to elect our own president, either. Thus the electoral college.

Well, times have changed. In our own wisdom, we have extended the right to vote to all Americans. In 1913, we provided for the direct election of U.S. senators. All the more important we provide for the direct election of our president. At first, we thought George Bush might win the popular vote, but lose the electoral vote. Now, it may turn out to be just the opposite. Either way, it proves the danger to democracy of keeping an archaic institution like the Electoral College in place.

Final lesson: Ralph Nader was the real spoiler in this election. As I write, the unofficial vote totals in Florida are: for Bush -- 2,909,136; for Gore -- 2,907,351; for Nader -- 96,698.

Simple arithmetic says it all. Assuming that most of Naderís votes came from Gore -- a safe assumption if there ever was one -- without Nader in the race, Gore would be the clear winner in Florida and the next president of the United States.

So what did Nader accomplish for all his efforts? He didnít get his 5 percent. He didn't qualify the Green Party for federal funding. He didn't succeed in building the Green Party. He only succeeded in destroying the Democratic Party and, perhaps, denying Al Gore the White House. And, of course, if that happens, everything that Nader supposedly supports -- environmental protection, worker safety, consumer protection, a woman's right to choose -- would be systematically destroyed by a Bush administration.

After eight years of progress, America may suddenly go backward under President George W. Bush. If so, donít blame Al Gore. Blame Ralph Nader.






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