The only answer: Let them settle it in a quiz show

Voters' View
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The Independent US

After the rollercoaster of the last two days, soundings from ordinary voters suggest that confidence in America's great democracy is wearing a little thin.

After the rollercoaster of the last two days, soundings from ordinary voters suggest that confidence in America's great democracy is wearing a little thin.

Kate and Kieran, two Republican supporters who braved the rain in Austin on Tuesday night to await the Bush victory that never came, spent much of that evening vowing to launch an uprising if it turned out that their man had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college.

By the time that scenario looked as though it could be reversed - Al Gore winning the popular vote and George W Bush becoming President - their indignation had vanished. "This is the way the system works," said Kate. "And if the Democrats don't like it, they are just bad losers."

It was hard, in Austin or anywhere else, to find people who were not talking about the election. Many were openly taking sides, as one exchange on the Dallas Morning News website testified. "Looks to me like the Republicans are buying time to rig the votes in Florida for Bush," came in one entry. "It sure is strange that other candidates on the Florida ballot aren't complaining about the 'confusion'!" countered the very next one.

An even greater pool of voters, however, appeared to be genuinely confused. "So many of us feel duped," said one woman interviewed by CNN. "This makes me think that whoever we elect won't really be our president."

Two businessmen in a coffee shop in Austin spent a merry quarter of an hour joshing about possible resolutions to the deadlock. "Perhaps Gore and Bush should be shackled together and frogmarched into the White House together to argue it out for the next four years," said Chuck Freed, who was visiting from North Carolina.

"They should be put on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and whoever answers the most questions wins," suggested his friend Dave Bentley. "They'd better restrict the questions to baseball, or else it wouldn't be a fair contest," countered Chuck. (Mr Bush is an acknowledged fount of trivia on baseball, but has rarely displayed a propensity for knowing much about anything else.)

Many voters also found themselves shocked by the uncertain science of election-day voting. While experts explained on the television networks that miscounts, missing ballots, problems of access to polling stations and other hitches were a feature of just about every election - not that they usually make a difference - viewers found it deeply troubling.

"We were brought up thinking we lived in the world's greatest democracy, and now we learn that our system is flawed. You'd have thought there would be a way to allow people to choose their candidate cleanly and confidently," said Mary Hernandez, a customer at an Austin diner.

Sandy Cate, an anthropologist from San Francisco, opined: "It's pretty interesting that the future leader of the world's last superior power is going to be determined in a state known for its vote fraud, blotted voting rolls and corruption ... There is a certain irony to the idea that while the US harps on at eastern Europe, Africa, Asia et al about democracy and fair elections, its own has come down to Florida, Miami-Dade and the rest of South Florida."