Residents split into those who care and those who don’t …

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 25, 2000

Two weeks into the closest presidential election in history, the country remains split between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

But a new division has emerged among voters, one unrelated to party lines: those turned on by the political saga and those who have tuned out.

&uot;Jerry Springer. I believe that sums it up,&uot; said Debbie Sullivan, a full-time mom from Natchez. &uot;It’s just turned into such a joke.&uot;

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Sullivan, who was disgusted early on in the presidential campaign by what she believed to be hollow promises by candidates to voters, said she gave up following the election coverage soon after the recounts began.

&uot;I’m just fed up with it,&uot; she said.

But, Sullivan said she also feels that as a responsible citizen, she is obligated to keep up-to-date on the progress – or digress – of the election.

&uot;You feel like you should, but it’s like when you watch hearings of the (U.S.) Supreme Court, they just speak over your head,&uot; she said. &uot;You have that part of you that says you’re obligated to know what’s going on but then you say what’s the point?&uot;

Libby Voss, a history teacher at Cathedral High School, said her frustration is compounded by the partisan bickering that is prolonging the inevitable outcome.

&uot;It’s all bipartisan,&uot; she said. &uot;What it all boils down to is no one found a clear leader in either one of them. They’re just scraping the bottom of the barrel now.&uot;

Voss said her students, some of them first-time voters, are also divided, with a few becoming increasingly interested in the political drama, and others simply tuning it all out.

The latter group may be in the better position, Voss said, because a little naivete now could prevent a lifetime of disillusionment.

&uot;I would hate to think that some of them think ‘if this is how it’s going to be, I’m not going to worry about it in four years,’&uot; she said.

Bob Barrett, Adams County Election Commission chairman, agreed that the damage caused by this year’s election could be far-reaching.

Whether Bush or Gore is declared the eventual winner, &uot;this country is going to be divided to the nth degree&uot; Barrett said.

Comparing an election to a sporting event, Barrett said he believes a referee’s decision should be honored, no matter how close the call.

&uot;When an official throws a flag or blows a whistle, that’s it,&uot; he said.

Mark I. Greenberg, a historian with the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, believes the game isn’t over until the each player’s – i.e. voter’s – voice has been heard.

Greenberg said he is &uot;troubled&uot; by Republican efforts to discount dimpled ballots, especially when many of them were cast by elderly voters who may have been confused about how the ballot worked.

&uot;It seems clear to me that if there is only one dimple among the list of presidential candidates, that person was trying to send a message,&uot; he said.

And voters should not be penalized for not punching the chad hard enough, he said.

But like others, Greenberg has found humor in the ordeal, specifically surrounding the nation’s new-found ballot vocabulary.

&uot;The word ‘chad’ is going to become a boon to Scrabble players, who before now only used it in reference to a country in Africa,&uot; Greenberg said.

While he is not sure who to thank for originating the term, Greenberg said it has proved useful.

&uot;Otherwise we’d have to call them ‘the little pieces of cardboard that fall out when you punch the ballot,&uot; he said.

Mike Henry, a Natchez businessman, said he believes a decision is near and remains optimistic that the judiciary system will remain unbiased.

&uot;We’ve got this extreme controversy, but it’s being resolved through the democratic process,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s frustrating at times and it’s partisan, but I don’t think it’s destructive.&uot;