Monday, November 29, 2004
Washington State woes: I mentioned last week that the outrageously close Washington gubernatorial race reinforced the need to ensure that our elections are not stolen through fraud. The Wall Street Journal's John Fund weighed in today with similar sentiments -- and that it may already be too late.
That set off a legal fracas over the 929 people in heavily Democratic King County whose provisional ballots hadn't been counted because of mismatched or missing signatures. Democrats demanded the names and addresses of those voters so they could contact them and correct the errors. County officials responded that in requiring that all 50 states offer provisional ballots Congress had stipulated that such votes remain private. Republican lawyers argued that having partisans scavenge for votes would increase the potential for fraud.
But Superior Court Judge Dean Lum said such arguments weren't as important as the need to make sure every vote counted--an echo of Florida. A full 10 days after the election, while absentee votes were still being counted, he ordered election officials to give the names and addresses of the provisional voters to the Democratic Party. Judge Lum did express regret that the judiciary was being "whipsawed in the middle" of a bitter partisan dispute and asked to "micromanage an election." But then he proceeded to do precisely that by allowing partisan workers the opportunity to mine flawed ballots after the election, for the first time in the 20 years that Washington has used provisional ballots.
Fund also recounts how elections officials went through optical scan ballots and "enhanced" ones where necessary. Democrats have also pledged to seek a selective hand recount in an effort to see if they can conjure up more votes for their candidate. Hand recounts are always more prone to human error and are probably less accurate.
There's always going to be a margin of error in any election where humans vote. Voters will darken too many circles, not enough circles, they'll use a pencil instead of a pen, etc. -- you've just got to hope that the election won't be so close that it's within that margin.