2.4.05

THE RETURN OF AN ANCIENT RITUAL. Long before people knew of brackets, let alone of filling them in, the College of Cardinals in conclave assembled to elect a Pope. I have heard but not found independent corroboration that the conclave served as a prototype for the Electoral College the Framers set up, albeit with a more transparent method of determining the size of the College. (Readers who can confirm or rebut this are invited to use the Suggestion Box.) One ritual the conclave will observe is the ceremonial burning of the ballots. Black smoke signifies an indecisive vote, white smoke means Habemus Papam. Sometimes, as in the 2000 Florida recounts, a smoke signal would be useful here. But the heat of that vote could have been worse.

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