History-Altering Decisions

#6

Florida Uses Butterfly Ballots

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Florida voters go to the polls in 2000

Florida voters go to the polls in 2000

I believe in the power of one thing leading to another. The assassination of JFK leads to national mourning, which leads to public sympathy for his programs, which leads to LBJ getting the Civil Rights Act passed into law. The space program leads to landing on the moon, which leads to the development of super-satellites, which leads to instant information access, which leads to you downloading free Internet pornography right onto your cell phone as you drive. The “butterfly ballot”—a confusing two-option punch system inflicted on a crucial slice of Florida’s voters in 2000—was part of the same type of progress. As a country we should thank it for the eventual presidency of Barack Obama. As an individual I should thank it for the movie Recount and my subsequent Emmy nomination for playing the role of Democratic operative Michael Whouley. Of course, the butterfly (ballot, not insect) first gave us eight years of George Bush Jr., a privileged son with a frat-house brain and a truly astonishing lack of talent for speaking in public. But at the end of the chain we ended up with our first African-American president, a man whose penchant for reaching out to the rest of the world landed him the additional title of Nobel laureate. The headlines should have read: “World to America: We’re Ready to Forgive You.” Not a bad trade-off. Obama wins the peace prize, I lose an Emmy. Guess I took one for the team. Thank you, butterfly ballot.

Leary is a comedian, actor, and writer currently starring on the show Rescue Me.

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