Florida-Esque? Taking Offense at Election Time

Weekend Edition essayist Diane Roberts takes offense that pundits overseas are referring to the chaotic Scottish parliamentary elections as "Florida-esque."

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Sometimes it's not corruption that causes political conniptions. For instance, in the recent parliamentary elections in Scotland, computers malfunctioned, the ballot was confusing, and close to five percent of the votes cast were disqualified. British pundits struggled to find the right way to characterize the chaos.

Essayist Diane Roberts is spending the summer in the UK and doesn't like what they came up with.

DIANE ROBERTS: Florida-esque, Florida style, a Florida-sized mess. These are the hurtful ways in which everyone from BBC analyst to tabloid trashmeisters is describing the Scottish election imbroglio. Once, Florida stood for fun, sun, palm trees, talking cartoon mice, cocktails with little paper parasols, loafers with no socks, and land speculators. Now, Florida has become a byword for electile dysfunction.

Yes, we Floridians admit that the 2000 presidential election was a bit untidy. Our butterfly ballots flapped about uncontrollably. We couldn't tell if the chats were hinged, dangling, or even pregnant. Overvotes duked it out with undervotes, and absentee ballots fell into a space-time anomaly situated on (unintelligible) near Chattahoochee, Florida. There were rent-them-ups in our streets and out-of-town lawyers in our drinking establishments. Banana Republic's called Florida a banana republic. Fidel Castro offered to send us democracy educators.

But hey, we admitted we had a voting problem and faced our voting demons. We got help. We bought brand new machines that are just like those automatic teller things except they don't give you a receipt. Okay, it's true they didn't work so well either, especially in that once screwy congressional race last November still under review by the courts. But since that was Katherine Harris' old seat, what do you expect? Bad, bad karma.

Anyway, I don't think it's right to bandy about the good name of the 27th state just to make a cheap political point. Besides, the Scottish elections merely snarled at the future of Scotland, a nation of six million. The Florida elections triggered constitutional crisis and shaped the fate of the whole planet.

So until the Scotts start building condos on the Moray Firth and outlet malls in the Outer Hebrides, until they rebrand the North Sea Coast, sounds kind of cold. Until they turn Edinburgh into a theme park, "Braveheart" world would be good. Until then, well, they ought to lay off using Florida as the adjective dossier for a fouled up democracy.

What with hurricanes, global warming, Kudzu, and feral iguanas, we have enough problems, thank you.

HANSEN: Diane Roberts is a Florida-native and author of "Dream State."

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