Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Your vote as cannon fodder

As Gregoire vows to help Washington heal the GOP files suit to set aside the election but doesn't ask to prevent her swearing-in. Apparently a decision on that will be made early next week. Among the claims made in the suit are (1) 348 provisional ballots that King County admits were improperly put into counting machines rather than being kept separate for verification, (2) discrepancies in lists kept by some counties that show more ballots were cast than people credited as voting in the election (3) illegal votes by felons, dead people or others, and, (4) failure to ensure that military and overseas ballots were handled properly.

Responding to the dead person vote issue King County Elections Director Dean Logan acknowledged that several dead people were credited with voting. But, said Logan, "These isolated situations need to be put into perspective. There is a clear difference between an individual act and organized fraud intended to skew an election. In this case, there is no evidence this was done for purposes of benefiting a particular candidate or political party." So, lessee... your vote is as legitimate as that of a dead person.

So it should be no surprise that Secretary of State Sam Reed proposes election reform. The most controversial proposal would be to ban political parties or other groups from collecting affidavits from absentee and provisional voters whose ballots are rejected because of signature problems. Reed called the practice "offensive" and said it tends to "erode public confidence." Never mind that several counties have demonstrated rampant incompetence in handling those same ballots. So, lessee... otherwise valid ballots with signature problems should be rejected and incompetence should trump partisanship.

Meanwhile, raising an issue raised by the LPWS when it sued to place Ruth Bennett and J. Mills on the general election ballot, a non-partisan activist group Citizens For Voting Integrity-Washington has claimed that untested voting systems were used in King, Pierce, Snohomish and 4 other counties. Briefly, state law requires voting software to be tested according by independent testing agencies and this was not done. Carolyn Diepenbrock, Snohomish County elections manager, defended the system, claiming her county would have been forced "to hand count all ballots," which would have caused considerable delay. But that obviously isn't true because 32 other counties stuck with the old system. So lessee... administrative convenience is more important than voter confidence in the result.

Even left-leaning P-I columnist Robert Jamieson recognizes the palpable illegitimacy of Gregoire's victory when he suggests, even tongue in cheek, that we should split...up the state, authorizing Rossi to govern the eastern part of the state and Gregoire to govern the west. "Or we could dump both of the sorry lot and give the nod to Ruth Bennett, the Libertarian candidate, who finished third. She's been the one unsoiled act in this infuriatingly messy spectacle." says Jamieson.

Washington resident Michael Kinsley recently lamented the Death of the Secret Ballot in the LA Times. The problems of recent elections "force us to realize that democracy is not an exact science. You count the votes, whether by machine or by hand, and you get a different number every time. ... Most important, the inherent winner-take-all nature of elections is an unavoidable but serious defect. If a vote is so close that every recount changes the result (as in this year's race for governor in Washington state), it's fantasy to claim that either possible result is superior to the other as an expression of the people's will.

So, perhaps this election should be the poster child for IRV advocates. While we obviously need to iron out the multiple technical difficulties that this election presents, the best and most reliable of systems does not solve for the problem identified by Kinsley, that at the end of the day a winner take all system does not always protect democratic values.


Blogger J. Mills said...

"Carolyn Diepenbrock, Snohomish County elections manager, defended the system, claiming her county would have been forced "to hand count all ballots," which would have caused considerable delay."


"Considerable delay"? What is today, and who is Governor?

Oh, by the way, didn't Snohomish hand count all ballots?

4:04 AM  

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