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Will the Presidential Chaos Serve as a Wonderful Civics Lesson for America?Aired December 18, 2000 - 4:10 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to go off to New York, where Historian Carol Berkin is standing by. She teaches at City University in New York. She is an expert on the Electoral College.
Carol, thanks for being back with us.
CAROL BERKIN, HISTORIAN: Sure.
CHEN: You've been working a very long day for us here at CNN.
BERKIN: I certainly have!
CHEN: But I've got to ask you, in a certain sense, do you see all of the difficulties that we've seen over the last week actually being sort of helpful to the nation, in that it sort of caused us all to go back and take sort of a civics lesson about how our system works?
BERKIN: Absolutely. If you are speaking as a historian of the period, this is the greatest thing that could have happened. People are reading the Constitution. They are thinking about the Electoral College, They are thinking about the question of federalism and state's right. I mean, this could open a national debate, which could be very, very exciting in the coming year.
CHEN: But the debate has been open before about whether the Electoral College should be allowed to go on or not. Do you actually anticipate that, after everything is said and done -- we get through the holidays -- that people really will be worried about changing this process?
BERKIN: Well, the Super Bowl may intervene -- as I keep saying in -- our interest. But I think this is the first time that we really have a one-person, one-vote commitment in this country -- that is, it's only been in the last 20 years or so. And I think this is the first time the debate is really taking place on the most grassroots level, not just in political party circles, but really people all across the country.
And I -- I'm hopeful, no matter how it turns out, that people really do begin a conversation about this that lasts for some time. Certainly, when we all go to the voting booth four years from now, we're going to be very, very careful about how we cast those votes. CHEN: Especially if you get a butterfly ballot.
CHEN: Now, why do the Electoral College votes look so different state to state? I mean, in Massachusetts, we saw them all dressed up: somebody in a tux, saw people -- we just saw Jennifer Auther in Arizona. They are sitting around at a table. Why does it look so different?
BERKIN: Well, it's really de gustibus. You know, this is a kind of example of state's rights in operation. Every state is entitled to do this in any way, shape or form. They could have a go-go party and cast these ballots. But I think, certainly, this year, for the first time, with cameras in almost every statehouse, that they are certainly trying to, in most cases, make this as solemn and as serious an enterprise as they can.
CHEN: Professor Berkin, we're going to ask you to stand by. Carol Berkin is going to back with us later in this hour. We'll talk a little more how the Electoral College works.
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