Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Governor-elect Rossi -- for now

The pachyderms can celebrate Dino Rossi’s apparent victory in the Washington gubernatorial election. He was certified as the governor-elect today following the recount.

By Friday, Christine Gregoire and the Democrats must decide whether to request another recount in an effort to erase Rossi’s 42-vote victory margin.

Many people believe that the Democrats will request a manual recount in precincts where they think they have the best chance to discover a few more ballots which can be identified as votes for Gregoire.

The Seattle Times opined that “cherry-picking” in a search for a few more votes is a bad idea, even if it does seem to offer the best chance to overturn the election’s result:
Logical? Yes. Strategic? Yes. But that is not the way to avoid long-term resentment over vote counting. Washington residents and both candidates have to live with the results of this election a long time. Gregoire cannot behave as if she wants vote counting to continue until she wins. The closer the state gets to the most reliable count, the better.

As expensive as the statewide recount would be, voters everywhere would benefit if there is no cherry-picking of counties or precincts in advance. If there is to be a hand recount, take the cleaner, more equitable approach and conduct it statewide.
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Gregoire should live up to her own mantra to count every vote and live with the results.

That sounds good to this pachyderm’s ears, but there’s a flaw in the logic. If a selective manual recount at the Democrats’ expense changes the election’s outcome, the law requires a statewide manual recount at the state’s expense. While it would be better for the Democrats to pay for a statewide recount rather than foist that cost onto the taxpayers, a partial recount won’t prevent a subsequent full recount.

Former governor and senator Dan Evans made a better argument in a guest opinion article in The Seattle Times: A manual recount will probably be less accurate than the machine-aided recount already done -- so we already have the most reliable vote count.

As Evans noted, demanding another recount won’t be the result of a desire to determine the true outcome of the election:
It's time to be honest about this. The point of challenging the outcome is not about proving the truth; it's about finding a way to change the result. If Christine Gregoire did not believe there was a chance that challenging the results would change the outcome, she wouldn't do it.

Gregoire may change the outcome reflected in the vote totals, but it won’t be a more reliable counting of the votes that causes the change.

She may gain the title of governor, and with a Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature she may be able to govern effectively -- but there would be a noticeable smell associated with her election victory.

The vote totals of Rossi and Gregoire are so close as to be within the margin of error in counting the votes and tabulating the results, so either person would be an “accidental governor.” We will never know for certain whether the apparent outcome was a pure accident -- a mistake despite the best, most careful efforts to count every vote.

It would be better to have an accidental governor than a governor who counted and recounted until she finally got the breaks to fall her way.


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