Monday, April 11, 2005

Washington's Governor Election Still Open

John Fund reports on the latest developments in the Washington state election as the May 23 date for a Republican suit to overturn the election slowly approaches. Link.
The infamous 2004 governor's race was finally decided seven weeks after the election, after King County officials found new unsecured ballots on nine separate occasions during two statewide recounts. After the new ballots were counted, Democrat Christine Gregoire won a 129-vote victory out of some three million ballots cast. (...)

Slade Gorton, a Republican former state attorney general and U.S. senator, has joined with six Republican members of the King County Council in calling for a Justice Department investigation of the county's handling of ballots. Records indicate that some election officials in King County knew that the absentee ballot report they filed in November was inaccurate because there was evidence at least 86 ballots had been misplaced. Ignoring the requirement that they count the number of ballots received, instead they simply added together the number counted and rejected. (...)

You'd think the Democratic Legislature would be appalled at the rampant mistakes and move to fix them. Indeed, separate election reform packages passed by both the House and Senate contain such good ideas as changing the appearance of provisional ballots so they aren't as easily mixed in with regular ballots. But both chambers also want to expand the state's already generous use of mail-in ballots, the system that directly led to so many mishaps last November. The state House passed a bill that would mandate that every election be conducted with only mail-in ballots, as Oregon does now.

I lived in Oregon through four mail-in-only elections, and I always felt that it had an above-average risk of fraud. It was a small convenience to vote by mail, but it was never a real inconvenience to show up at the polls. We have read too many stories of election workers buying up blank mail-in ballots, sometimes even for drugs, or of large numbers of corpses and felons voting. If a person is healthy and nearby on election day, he or she should have to show up at a polling place and present photo ID.

Even if you exclude concerns about fraud, I question whether people whose interest in an election is not sufficient to get them to go to a neighborhood location to vote have learned enough about the issues or people being voted on to cast an intelligent ballot. I do not understand the obsession with low voter turnout. Quality is more important than quantity. People who have not seen a newspaper or TV news show for years need not be encouraged to flip a coin and put something down on a ballot. Voting is a responsibility, and those who will not use it responsibly may as well stay home. Unfortunately, with the easy mail-in votes, they can stay home, throw darts at the ballot, and mail it in. Democracy is not enhanced by that.


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