Monday, January 31, 2005

Ukraine West

"Down for the Recount" by Byron York has an excellent summary of how Christine Gregoire has stolen the Washington State Gubenatorial race.

About 2.8 million people went to the polls in Washington State on November 2, and what happened after the voting became one of the most vertiginous political roller-coaster rides in recent history. On election night, Rossi was slightly ahead. By the next day, as the votes from heavily Democratic King County, home of Seattle, continued to come in, Gregoire took a lead that grew as large as 16,000 votes. By the morning of November 9, that lead had been cut in half. But at that point, more than 200,000 ballots had not yet been counted. Later that night, results came in from a number of Republican-leaning counties, and Rossi took a lead of about 2,000 votes. The day after that, it stretched to 3,500.

About 85,000 ballots were still uncounted. Most of them were provisional ballots, meaning they were cast by people who came to the polls and could not show that they were registered to vote. They were allowed to cast ballots anyway, with the understanding that the ballots would be counted later if it could be shown that those voters were indeed registered.

On November 15, the count moved in Gregoire’s favor when King County announced that it had 10,000 more ballots to count than election officials originally thought (it’s still not entirely clear how that happened). Those votes went heavily to Gregoire, putting her in the lead by 158 votes. It was a kick in the teeth for Republicans, but Rossi remained calm. “We still knew how many ballots were outstanding in the counties that we had,” Rossi told National Review recently, “and we were confident that we were going to win.”

Sure enough, when those Rossi-leaning counties sent in their final totals, the Republican pulled back into the lead. On November 17, the counting was finished, and Rossi had won by 261 votes.

A recount was guaranteed: Washington State law requires a recount if an election is decided by less than one-half of one percent of the total votes cast. The recount was done by machine. It might seem obvious to say that it was intended to recount those ballots that had already been counted in the first round, but that fact was not obvious to officials in King County. They decided to “enhance” some ballots that had not been legible or otherwise countable during the first go-round. More and more ballots went into Gregoire’s column. The King County votes cut into Rossi’s lead, but not enough to put Gregoire into the lead. By the time the machine recount was finished, Rossi won by 42 votes.

Gregoire refused to concede. Democrats wanted a hand recount of all the votes, but the law required that they pay for it, which meant they would have to raise nearly $1 million. For a while, Democrats wondered where the money would come from, but their worries were eased when checks came in from John Kerry, who donated $250,000 in unused campaign funds; from, which pitched in another $250,000; from the Democratic National Committee, which sent still another $250,000; and from former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, who raised about $200,000 for the cause.

The recount began December 8. At first, it seemed to make little net change in the vote totals. Rossi appeared to be headed for a final, unquestionable victory when King County officials announced they had found 573 “new” ballots, which — they said — had been mistakenly disqualified. Republicans went to court, arguing that the time for counting “new” ballots was past, and that to count them now would require changing the rules in the middle of an election. But the state supreme court ruled against the GOP. The “new” votes were counted, and in the final tally Gregoire won by 129 votes. On December 30, she was certified the winner.

Republicans were stunned. “We thought that if it was a straightforward operation, a hand recount would work for us,” Rossi says. “But King County kept finding ballots and finding ballots and finding ballots until they had enough to win.”

What should the GOP do? Rossi and his allies began collecting the voting records from several counties around the state, and found what might be charitably called serious irregularities. They found counties where the number of votes cast exceeded the total number of registered voters. They found counties that had made mistakes in the counting of provisional ballots. And they found counties in which — shades of Daley’s Chicago — dead people apparently cast ballots."

Go read the whole thing.

Our congratulations to the Iraqis for what appears to be a wildly successful election. My wife grew up in Communist Romania and had tears in her eyes watching Fox News' coverage of the voting in Iraq.

Perhaps the Iraqis, the Afghanis, and the Ukranians can send us some help here in Washington State so that we might also enjoy free and fair elections.