Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2004 / 4 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Dan Abrams

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Our voting system could learn a little something from the NFL | It seems inevitable that if the election is close, there won't be a concession speech until the lawyers tell that candidate it is over.

Partisan attorneys already duking it out in battleground states over provisional ballots, voter registration, poll identification, et cetera. And since many election law experts say there's at least a 1 percent error rate in our elections, lawyers looking for trouble are going to find it. Massive litigation in numerous states could follow. So how about this for a solution?

Something akin to the NFL replay rule. Football, each side gets one opportunity per half, a total of two per game, to have the referees go back and check the replay, see if the call was correct. But neither side can make a challenge in the final two minutes of each half, or in overtime. At those times, only the replay referee can ask for it.

It provides certainty with a recognition that sometimes the wrong call is going to be made. That challenging every call would just lead to less faith in the refs and maybe in the game. That's what's happening to our election system. People are losing faith in the integrity of the system, because every call is being or will be challenged. It is not like these problems just popped up in 2000 either. They were there.

We just accepted the ref's calls in the past. Sure, it's different when the elections are this close. But unlike the NFL replay, we almost certainly end up with the right call. Here it was said in the recent editorial in "Business Week", "The lawyers will probably just battle one another to a standstill, driving up costs and aggravation across the board, while doing little to improve American democracy".

If we accept that we can't have a perfect system, and the post-election litigation won't help make it better, then maybe, just maybe, our democracy can learn a lesson from football.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



© 2004, MSNBC