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National Mood:From Amazed to Weary

November 10, 2000

After days of recounts and recriminations, Americans seem to be growing less incredulous and more skeptical about their torturous presidential election process. Across the nation, they say, whether it’s Bush or Gore, let it be finished.

As the recount drags on and on, and the vote counts between George Bush and Al Gore continue to change, national amazement is giving way to confusion, weariness and plain invective.

And not just in Florida, where hardline Republican and Democratic supporters waved banners and hurled insults. Elsewhere in the country, tempers flared too.

Even some Republicans wondered why so many problems surfaced in the state where Bush’s younger brother is governor.

``I usually think everyone is honest,″ said Terri Tripp, a 42-year-old insurance agent from Omaha, Neb., who voted for Bush. ``But now I am wondering if they could be fixing votes.″

Added Barb Sutherland, a 46-year-old Omaha secretary, also a Republican, ``It all makes me wonder if they could be playing around with the votes.″

Others are angered by what they see as an attempt by Democrats to stir up voters by hinting darkly of voter fraud.

``They are almost on the verge of inciting a riot,″ said Anthony Angotta, a 46-year-old service station owner from Stamford, Conn. and a lifelong Republican. ``They are trying to do what they couldn’t accomplish at the polls.″

Angotta said the entire country loses the more the process drags on.

``It will keep instilling a hostility, an anger in the people, a feeling that we’ve been robbed; the election was stolen from us,″ he said. ``Was it really or was it just close?″

As for the controversial ballot in Palm Beach County, Fla., ``If someone is in school and they fail a test, should he be allowed to take it again?″ Angotta said. ``Where does it stop? ″

At the ballot box, says Lynette Shuster, a 35-year-old mother of two from Pittsburgh, an independent who voted for Bush.

``When you go in to vote, you have to know your rights,″ said Shuster, who has grown bleary-eyed watching the drama on television. ``It seems like there are a bunch of crybabies out there, and no one wants to take responsibility for their actions. MOVE ON.″

``I think the whole thing is a shame,″ said Rose George, a teacher from Hilton Head, S. C., who voted for Bush. ``You’ve had your vote. You’ve had your re-count. Now let’s get on with it.″

But getting on with it means different things to different people. Some, like Trish Hallam, a Democrat from Morrisville, Pa., say voters in Palm Beach County should cast their ballots again. Like others around the country she wondered ``why everyone doesn’t have the same balloting.″

Others wondered if the process could get even more confused in the Electoral College.

``It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the electoral college voters weren’t voting the way they were supposed to,″ said John Ryan, a 59-year-old iron worker from Chicago. Ryan, who voted for Gore, described the election as ``a soap opera″ and said he wouldn’t be surprised at shenanigans from either party.

``It’s frustrating to see what’s happening now,″ he said.

In Harlingen, Texas, 75-year-old farm laborer Salvador Garcia marveled at the quirks of the democratic system he so proudly participates in. Garcia wouldn’t say whom he voted for, but hinted that he preferred Gore.

``If the American people are smart enough to invent a rocket that goes all the way to the moon,″ he says with a snort, ``why can’t they invent a card that won’t confuse people?

``Let me talk to them,″ he said. ″ I can do it.″

Others view the crisis as a test of the system _ and of the faith that voters have in it.

``It’ll make our country stronger in the long run, ″ said Jim Mckey, a 64-year-old salesman from Scottsdale, Ariz., who claims to be descended from a soldier who fought under George Washington. A lifelong Republican, McKey said he voted for Gore because he was impressed by the Democratic candidate’s energy. He still thinks Gore would make a better president. But, he says, enough is enough.

``I don’t think there’s voter fraud out there that doesn’t go on all over the country. It’s sour grapes,″ McKey said. ``You can open up a can of worms like this in any county in the country.″

Barbara Smith, a 57-year-old storeowner from Marne, Mich., said she was so ``stressed″ by the agony of it all that she couldn’t bear to watch television anymore.

``This is a nightmare for our country and I think our country is going to be so divided, whoever is president,″ said Smith, who voted for Bush. Smith worried about the possibility of more recounts, of law suits.

The best thing for the country, she said, would be an early _ and graceful _ resolution, no matter who the final winner is.

``I think we have to go back to our Constitution and the policies we have set up for voting,″ she said. ``There has to be some process of the law. Now there are lawsuits and all the lawyers are down there, and no one knows what’s going on.″

But for everyone voicing weariness, others were voicing hope.

``I think the nation should rejoice in the process,″ said Jeff Neal, a 40-year-old branch manager for an investment company in Chicago. ``We should all recognize the historical moment we’re living in. I wouldn’t be surprised if younger generations that have distanced themselves from the process, if this captures their attention and they will take part.″

Speaking for that younger generation of voters _ and for many others in the nation _ 25-year-old Carissa Wilkinson of Bismarck, N.D., had just one comment.

``All these things that are going on, I think people are just ready for someone. It doesn’t matter anymore. Bush ... Gore ... just give us a president.″

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