Ten Votes

So you thought the 2004 elections were over? Not in my state. More than a month after the polls closed, the Washington State governor’s race is still undecided, and you’re not going to believe how close the latest count is: TEN VOTES. The latest returns from the third recount (all by hand this time) have Democrat Christine Gregoire ahead of Republican Dino Rossi 1,373,051 to 1,373,041 with more than 99% of precincts reporting.


If this isn’t the closest election in the history of the United States, I’d like to hear what is. I mean, it’s the equivalent of winning a smaller state like Wyoming by ONE VOTE. We’re talking about a difference of .00073 percent. That’s 73 100,000ths of a percent, and much closer than when Bush allegedly won Florida by 400 some votes in 2000. That was a southern asswhoopin’ compared to this.

A lot of people in my state criticized Gregoire for asking for multiple recounts given that she came out behind by a hundred or so votes in both of the counts, but can you really blame her? You could count those votes a million times and you’d get a slightly different tally each time. When the numbers are that close, you’re really within the natural margin of error no matter what you do.

Given that, I wonder why every election in this country doesn’t have runoff provisions for such close calls. Several states do, but not all of them, and no federal elections have it either. It seems only fair to me that if two candidates are within, say, 1 percent of each other, there is a new election with only those two candidates on the ballot. Another alternative to that would be to vote for a “2nd place candidate” on each ballot so that people who vote independent can still affect the balance between the Republican and Democratic voting.

How can you even take office not knowing if you really won? Oh wait…

15 comments on “Ten Votes”. Leave your own?
  1. An online friend of mine attending U of W was telling me about that. Wasn’t there a vote for an “automatic runoff ballot”? He explained how it would work, and the idea sounded great to me.

    You know, in the old days, the second place runner for presidency would be the Vice President. Hence “vice”. I think that was a pretty good idea. Some say no president would get anything done that way, but I think it would be better to have two guys arguing for everyone’s interests than to have two guys supporting only half the country. That’s what we have now. The elections are becoming so close that no matter who wins, quite nearly half the country loses, having no representation in the highest office of government.

    That got a little off-topic.

  2. andrew says:

    San Diego empathizes with you; we are currently in mayoral limbo. Donna Frye, a late entry write-in candidate, ended up nearly stealing the election from Dick Murphy (incumbent). The final margin was “officially” 2,108 votes.

    Here’s the catch: there were 4,180 ballots where voters legibly wrote in Donna Frye’s name, but forgot to fill in the bubble all or completely. So yes, voters took the time to write in Donna Frye’s name, but because they forgot to also fill in the bubble alongside the write-in line, these ballots were not counted. Thrown out. Void.

    So what best displays the will of the voter, not filling in the bubble or physically writing out someone’s name? Gotta love it.

  3. Eric Meyer says:

    In terms of absolute numbers, I remember there was a mayoral race around here that was decided by a single vote. This was back in 2000, I think. That was almost certainly a larger percentage magin, though.

    Just think, no matter who ends up being certified the winner, you’ll have an entire gubenatorial term to savor the constant whining and carping about the “stolen election” by local partisans. Whee.

  4. David Robarts says:

    I favor the idea of runoff elections too. I think that any time the leader merely wins a plurality of votes (more than anyone else, but less than 50%) there should be a runoff to determine which of the leading candidates are supported by a majority of voters (greater than 50%). I would replace the primary election (where the states facilitate the selection of candidates for each political party) with a preliminary election. After the votes in the preliminary election are counted, the top candidates would be certified for the general election. Enough candidates would be certified to ensure that their votes added together represent a majority of the people. This way one would never be forced to choose between a candidate they prefer (but don’t think will win) and a candidate that they think will defeat the candidate that will least represent them. Think about it…no more whining about a spoiler in the election. Of course to do this for a presidential election would require the federal government to oversee elections (currently a state power) and replacing the electoral college with direct election of the president.

  5. I also favor the run-off election idea. Why this wasn’t already built into the election process baffles me. It seems like the only way to ensure a fair result and to avoid endless mud slinging and lawsuits.

    And I’m saying this even though I would vote Democrat if I could, and so my candidate is currently winning.

    By the way, on an almost related note, the P.U.-litzer Prizes For 2004 is worth a read. I love the first one about “Mandate Mania” – makes a great point.

  6. Andrew says:

    I find the obsession with the ‘will’ or ‘intent’ of the voter fascinating. I guess I just don’t see how that enters into it. Your ‘intent’ is not your ‘vote’. A vote is a tangible piece of paper. If you filled in the wrong circle and submitted your vote, then that circle is your vote.

    It sounds awful, but unfortunately that is the reality of elections for very practical purposes. In order to stop fraud and cheating in the elections, and make it possible to actually count ‘votes’ instead of divining ‘intent’, the rules are there.

    I don’t really care who wins the WA gubnatorial election, because I moved to the east coast nine years ago, but what upsets me is the total disregard for election law and statutes. Suddenly 300 votes show up out of nowhere that were ‘misplaced’ in unsecured boxes for days and they are COUNTED?

    I’m not surprised the Rebpublicans have called for the addition of ‘undercounted’ votes in other counties besides King County. I don’t see how Gregoire could claim to want to find out who ‘really’ won the election and go for undercounted votes in Democrat King County only. Doesn’t make sense.

    If you ask me, no extra votes should be counted (they are all invalid). But if you’re going to insist on opening that can of worms, then you have to apply the same standard to ALL districts and votes.

    It’s a mess.

  7. Just to correct you a bit, Mike. The last recount put Rossi up by 42 votes. With it that close, what politician wouldn’t want another recount.

    Now, as for the run off that was voted for in Washington. It passed. Fairly well too, if I recall correctly. However, several third parties are challenging it on the grounds that the Washington state constitution clearly states all registered parties must be represented equally and fairly. The courts will almost definitely throw the new propisition because of this.

    Of course, it’s the Libertarians that are pushing it most, with Ruth Bennett (their gubernatorial candidate) at the helm. It should be noted that she is now considered the reason Gregoire didn’t win outright. Taking over 2 percent of the vote, and mostly from counties Gregoire also did well in, it’s almost certain that if she hadn’t run, Gregoire would have won. We’ll just have to see where it goes from here.

  8. Chip Adams says:

    As Andrew stated above, we are dealing with our own little election mess here in San Diego as well.

    One thing I find odd in San Diego is that if you DO NOT fill in the cirlce completely (i.e. you place an “X” or a check mark) your circle will be filled in for you by someone else’s hand during the counting process. I remember seeing on the local news how it was fairly unclear as to how or what you had to do when voting for a write-in candidate. I think if a circle with an “X” or a check can be filled in by someone else than a write-in vote that clearly states who that person is voting for should have it’s circle filled in by someone else as well.

    Stupid election crap!

  9. Erik Ankrom says:

    This is on a toally different level than what is going on in WA, but it hits home for me.

    I am currently a student at Kansas State University, and ran for Student Body President/Vice President this past year, with my running mate as the presidential candidate. The total votes were 6,241, and we received 3,122 of them, a 3 vote difference (0.00048%). In our elections, we have a primary election, and then the top two move on to the general elections, so in our case, the majority of the votes went towards the elected ticket.

    Naturally, a recount was demanded, but none was needed. Our elections system is all electronic, secure, and controlled through our university authentication system. This brings on an entirely new debate which I will not even start to get into on the national level, but maybe I’ll spark some nice debate on this issue!

    An interesting side note, our main platform issue was to bring a Student Information Portal to the students at K-State, and we are deploying it in January, using web standards, with customized CSS theming and all. No sIFR yet (sorry Mike) but maybe that will come in Version 2.

    If you would like to learn more, visit these links:
    K-State Collegian Article
    Open Source Student Portal we are using (SINAPSE)

  10. Though Portugal, where I live, is not a Presidential state – the Prime Minister holds the executive power, there is a President of The Republic.

    The Presidential election is the only one that is individual based and not party based (i.e. You vote on the man and not on his party or affiliation) and so our Constitution demands that the winner has to have a majority of the votes.
    If that doesn’t happen, the 1st and 2nd runners-up will dispute a 2nd Round alone, so a winner can emerge.

    The system works well enough in Portugal (and I know that a lot of other countries have the same system) but I don’t know if you couldn’t apply it to the U.S. Presidential Elections, because you’re not really voting for a man, you’re electing an Electoral College that will then elect a president, isn’t it? (please do correct me if I’m wrong)

    I think a more viable alternative would be to distribute evenly the electoral votes among all the candidates according to vote percentage. That way, a narrow victory wins you a couple more electoral votes, not ALL of them.
    If I’m not mistaken some states already have a policy somewhat like this one, so its not even that original.

  11. jamon says:

    what’s the governmental structure and election procedures in Cascadia?

  12. Ryan says:

    Another alternative to that would be to vote for a “2nd place candidate” on each ballot so that people who vote independent can still affect the balance between the Republican and Democratic voting.

    Sounds a lot like Instant Runoff Voting, an idea whose time has definitely come.

  13. Chip Adams says:

    Glad to see a decision has finally been reached. Democrat Christine Gregoire named governor elect.

  14. I wonder when people in this country will stop asking why we don’t have many of the improvements to representative government that other states have implemented and simply start demanding them.

  15. Rob says:

    Yea I’m from Mica Wa which is near Spokane. We kept hearing from Christine Grabmore how “Every vote should be counted” then we find out that over a thousand King county ballots from our troops overseas won’t be counted. It seems to me the Democrats only want the rules changed when it favors them and will do anything they can to hold what little thread of power they still have.

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