Letter From Rockfordrnhv Scott P. RichertrnChaos and Community’rnI tunc the radio to WLS, and the insistentrnoice of Tony Brown breaks me ont ofrnnn- tranee. It’s Saturday, December 9,rnthe dav after a l)itterl divided FhjridarnSupreme Court stretclied (and possiblyrnliroke) Florida law in order to allow arnstatewide recount of imdcrvotes in thernpresidential election. My family and Irnare driving back to Rockford from Chicago’srnMidway Airport, just hours before anrnequalldiided LIS. Supreme C’ourt willrnstop die recount in an activist decisionrnmore reminiscent of Earl Warren’s reignrnas chief justice than William Rchnquisfs.rn”The state of Florida is in chaos! Absoluternciiaos!” claims Brown, and hisrncaller agrees: “I just saw a headline thatrnreads, ‘Anarchy Reigns in Florida.'”rnThat’s funny; we’ve just returned from arnweek in Orlando —or rather, Walt DisnernWorid, that Neer-Never-Land diatrnbears aixxitas much resemblance to Orlandornas Washington, D.C., does to thernrest of die couiitr. I can’t say that I sawrnam anarchy or chaos; in fact, eventhingrnseemed pcrfeet]’ scripted, right down tornthe airplanes and buses —which a]wa’Srnarrived and departed on time —and thernrestaurants, which ma’ have charged anrnarm and a leg but served their mealsrnpromptly and courteously. If this bernchaos, let us make the most of it.rn.As Rockford draws closer, I’m hoping arnbit of that Florida anarchy has rubbed offrnon my adopted hometown. When wernleft, our own recount was under way;rnwith any luck, it created enough chaosrnthat our streets have been properlyrnplowed, which would be die first time inrnthe six winters we’ve lied here.rnOur contested election is for die HtlirnDistrict scat on die Winnebago Couiih’rnBoard. 1 hat ma} not seem nearly as excitingrnas die presidential recount, but itrnmade a splash here in Rockford. As inrnthe “important” election, the margin ofrn ictor- was en’ small (45 votes), and thernloser has asked for a hand recount becauserndie counting machines appear tornhae classified some actual votes as underrnotes. Widi Al Core’s loss, the Democratsrnliae effeetiel’ been frozen out ofrnthe presidenc’ and botli liouses of Congress,rnbut there’s a fair amount at stakernhere, too: If die eleefion is reversed, onernparty will control three quarters of Hiernseats on the count)’ board, allowing it tornimpose its will even on issues where a supermajorihrnis required. At the verv’ least,rnthat would mean local campaign contributorsrnwon’t have to spread their moneyrnaround.rnOur recount, however, has come atrnthe request of William Peterson, the Republicanrnincumbent who lost to Democraficrnchallenger James Peterson. As yournmight expect, when the roles arc reversed,rndie dictoric is, too. The Democraficrnexecufive director of die RockfordrnBoard of Elections, Naiic Strain, hasrntold the local Cannett paper (LCP) thatrn”I land counts are neer as accurate as thernmachines.” After a discover) recount ofrnfive of the 19 precincts in the district, sherndismissed concerns that the number ofrnballots in two precincts didn’t match diernreported totals. “There were a few ballotsrnmissing,” she said, “but that’s becausernthey’re in another box.”rnMeanvyhile, David Brovyn, the attorne)’rnfor the Republican Peterson, soundsrnoddly like Ciore attorney David Boies.rn”What we’re concerned about is die highrnnumber of nndervotes and illeeible votesrndiat iiiabe weren’t picked up by the machinesrn. . . What we want to make sure isrnriiat die will of die voter is followed,” herntold the LCP. That wouldn’t meanrncounting chads —hanging, pregnant, orrndimpled: Rockford has adopted a newrnoptical-scanning system which combinesrnthe efficiency of a machine count widi arnmuch more secure paper trail fiian thatrnleft by onr old punch-card ,ssteiii.rnI know Daid Brown; he’s a good attornernand an een better man, and if he beliernes there are grounds fi)r a hand recount,rnhe’s probably right. I suspect,rnthough, that there are any number ofrnpeople in Florida who would say thernsame about Judge Charles Burton inrnPalm Beach Conntv or his counterpart inrnBroward Count)-. And diat, in the end, isrndie point. If we truly want equal protectionrnunder the law, we’re not going to getrnit from blaek-robed state or federal justicesrnrelying on a skewed interpretation ofrnan illegally passed eonsfitutional amendment.rnTrue equal protection comesrnfrom hying in a community where wernmay not know eyeryone, but we knowrnsomeone who knows someone who does.rnDavid Brown undoubtedly wants to winrnthis contest for his client, but he also hasrna stake in Rockford and WinnebagornCount}’. Both his life in this commnnit)’rnand his character—formed in large partrnby that life—place limits on how far hernwill go.rnThat’s the reason why almost all statesrnleae most of die details of elections —rnincluding federal ones —up to countiesrnor local municipalities. The problemrncomes when outsiders-politicians, lawyers,rneven judges —view onr coinmnnitiesrnmerely as resources to be mined forrnvotes. Does Al Gore or David Boies orrnthe Florida Supreme Court really carernabout making sure diat “all die voters arernheard” in West Palm Beach? Of coursernnot, but Charles Burton probably docs, ifrnoiilv because they are the people amongrnwhom he lives and works. Who’s morernlikely to have the interests of the residentsrnof Winnebago County’ Board District 13rnat heart, David Brown or some hired gunrnfrom state or national Republican headquarters?rnThere’s no doubt in my mind.rnThe radio signal is breaking up as anotherrncaller tells 1 on}- Brown that too fewpeoplernrealize that God reigns, not men.rnBrown heartily agrees, saying that he assumesrndiis means die caller isn’t too concernedrnwhich man becomes president.rnOh, no, die caller replies. “Ifs importantrnthat Bush win because of the SupremernCourt. Without liberal activist judges,rndiere would be no aborfions in diis country.”rnI sigh as wc exit 1-90 onto the unplowcdrnstreets of Rockford. Chaos or no,rnit’s eood to be home.rnFEBRUARY 2001/35rnrnrn