Punching a hole in democracy

9th February 2001 at 00:00
IT IS good to see the vigorous debate on Learning and Teaching Scotland's Education for Citizenship docuemnt. However, it is incredible that Hilary Neilson, a member of the advisory group that drew it up, seriously believes that the problems in Florida during the recent American election were due to "the poor IT skills of the people of Florida". While I could take issue with almost every point in her letter (TESS, February 2), I must correct this utterly erroneous assertion.

The problems in Florida were due to a series of issues including the confusing design of the ballot paper, the inefficient mechanical operation of the voting machines, some voters' lack of strength to make the machines punch the holes properly, the fraudulent removal of some people from the electoral register, the strange shortage of ballot papers at several polling stations which prevented some people from voting, and the highly partisan decisions by many officials and judges to stop a proper count of the votes cast.

To blame the poor IT skills of te people of Florida is an insult to the many people who found themselves denied their democratic rights. Indeed, the problems in Florida were not caused by the voters, but by the state in its many guises - which is why I am so concerned that the state's role in citizenship is airbrushed out of this consultation document.

It is also worrying that Ms Neilson seems to believe that using a voting machine equates with ICT skills.

Finally why does she find it shocking or surprising that the current President of America enjoyed the support of only a minority of those who voted? A minority presidency is always a possible consequence of the electoral college system, as indeed a government with minority support is a possible outcome of our own first past the post UK parliamentary system of voting.

I find it alarming that someone who can demonstrate such ignorance of political processes should be involved in crafting a proposal for teaching youngsters about citizenship.

Judith Gillespie Findhorn Place Edinburgh

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