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Elections have to run their course to matter

American schoolchildren are often told that every vote counts just as much as the next and that this is the underlying principle of our democracy. In Florida, one million votes remain uncounted while they could have decided the outcomes of both the senatorial and presidential races.

According to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections, President George W. Bush received 3,812,485 votes while Sen. John Kerry received 3,444,201, a difference of 368,284 votes. Mel Martinez received 3,529,482 while Betty Castor received 3,455,314, a difference of 74,168 votes. One million absentee ballots, many cast because voters did not trust the new touch-screen voting system, remain uncounted, although they could sway either race.

Martinez announced victory before all votes cast Election Day were counted and before his opponent conceded. A candidate should not be allowed to simply crown himself the victor. Castor should not have conceded, but similarly to Sen. John Kerry, decided it was in the interest of the country to end the confusion.

But much of this confusion was created because Martinez prematurely called the race in his favor. If he had not done so, the race would have simply been too close to call and the absentee ballots would have had to decide the outcome.

The same goes for the presidential election, wherein TV networks such as MSNBC, NBC and FOX News as well as papers such as the New York Post called Ohio for Bush while voting was still taking place in the state.

It is very troubling to see Republicans win races by simply portraying themselves as victors. In a working democracy, this should not be allowed. Without ensuring that every vote counts, elections are little more than a charade.