Thursday, December 23, 2004
A broken system: I've been doing quite a bit of blog and newspaper reading on the Washington State "recount" the past couple of weeks as the legal challenges ramped up and the
hand recount Democrat vote creation started up.
I lived and worked in Aberdeen, Washington, for nearly two years and earned a few extra bucks every election night driving down to Pacific County and observing the vote counting and calling results in to the Associated Press. Those were the days of the old punchcard ballots and I was always impressed at how professional everyone involved with the process was.
That's not what has happened this time in King County.
This problem goes all of the way back to Florida in 2000. County canvassing boards in both places (in most places as far as I know) consist of three individuals -- usually two Democrats and one Republican or vice versa. These individuals are partisans. When determining the mystical "voter intent" it is majority rules. It should come as no surprise that this can result in differing standards for counting votes.
In 2000, the Palm Beach County canvassing board was consistently determining that ballots indicated a "vote" for Al Gore on 2-1 votes.
I'm sure the same thing happened numerous times these past two weeks in King County -- and elsewhere.
The trial court judge in the Bush v. Gore lawsuit outlined in interviews after the Supreme Court ruling halting the "counting" in Florida what his standard for determining voter intent was going to be. He was going to have teams of two (not three) judges look at each questionable ballot. For that ballot to count, the judges would have to agree that it was a valid vote -- no "best two out of three."
Like Florida in 2000, the canvassing board knew ahead of time how many votes they had to come up with to change the result of the election. Because King County is the state's most populous, every other county finished before it, leaving those election officials with the knowledge of the statewide margin.
It should come as no surprise that even unsure of whether the state Supreme Court would allow them to count 750+ "found" ballots, they managed to eke out a 10 vote "win" for their candidate.
A machine count is not influenced by partisan passions, and is therefore the most honest method of counting votes.
If people honestly believe that a hand recount is more accurate, then the judgement calls should either be made by two judges -- as suggested by the judge in Florida four years ago -- or by a Republican and a Democrat. A questionable ballot should only be counted if there is unanimity.
Washington's got a mess on its hands -- with no end in sight.