Blogs > Cliopatria > This Year's Last Election

Dec 17, 2004 6:42 pm

This Year's Last Election

There is still one undecided race from the November 2004 election--the gubernatorial race in Washington state. On election night, Republican Dino Rossi scored an upset victory over the heavily favored Christine Gregoire, the state's attorney general. (Political trivia: a Gregoire victory would have made Washington the first state to have a woman governor and two female senators simultaneously.) The required machine recount left Rossi ahead by just 42 votes, at which point Republicans called on Gregoire to concede. Instead, as she had the right to do, she demanded a manual recount, which can be tracked officially here or unofficially here.

Over the last two days, 723 incorrectly uncounted ballots have been discovered in heavily Democratic King County (Seattle). Republicans are now going to court to keep these ballots uncounted, although their case seems weak: it is the purpose of a manual recount, I should think, to catch just such mistakes. If the ballots are allowed in, Gregoire would almost certainly win.

A case can be made, of course, that Gregoire has no one to blame for her problems but herself: in basketball, when a favored team loses because of a bad call by the referees at the end of the game, the old adage is that the better team shouldn't have put itself in the position to lose the game because of one bad call. If Gregoire hadn't taken Rossi too lightly, she wouldn't need a favorable court decision to ensure the counting of these ballots and her probable victory. Winning in this way would hamper her ability to serve as governor, and could have national effects; Rossi, if defeated, will almost certainly challenge first-term Democratic senator Maria Cantwell in 2006, and might benefit from something of a symnpathy vote.

This election, though, along with other famous such cases (beyond Florida 2000, the big two are the Indiana 8th District race in which Democratic incumbent Frank McCloskey ultimately was declared the winner by 3 votes; and the 1974 NH Senate race between John Durkin and Louis Wyman, in which the Senate ultimately decided to seat neither man and instead ordered a rerun of the election), raises the question of how well equipped we are to handle stastically insignificant outcomes. I'm not sure that Washington wouldn't have been better served by rerunning this contest, as well.

Update, 6.48pm: A superior court judge has just upheld the GOP challenge, saying that the 723 votes, even though they clearly are valid ballots that were improperly rejected, can't be counted. The State Dems are going to appeal.

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Richard Henry Morgan - 12/18/2004

I should be accused of redundancy, shouldn't I, for citing facts favorable to Republicans? Oh, that's right. If I didn't cite them they wouldn't appear here at all. My bad.

Kerik seems one of those goofy cases where a guy has almost no record to speak of, yet gets promoted -- sort of like Powell and Haig in the military, though they didn't have his baggage. Funny thing though, the media reported Kerik's sexual escapades after he withdrew his name, and the Times has yet to report that Scott Ritter solicits, over the internet, underage girls to watch him masturbate. If I didn't know better, I'd think there may be agendas at work here.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/18/2004

I'll try to keep it in mind. The main thing that disturbs me about your facts is that the only ones that you ever cite always seem to be in an attempt to refute criticism of the Bush administration. Care to defend the Kerik appointment? In truth, I think there ought to be a huge uproar about the use of Homeland Security appointments, whether its the Kerik appointment at the national level or the New Jersey appointment at the state level. More such appointments and one would think that the whole homeland security thing is a hoked up business intended to create more slots at state and national levels for sex partners and crooked pols.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/18/2004

The figures are from CNN, found here at

As for Washington state, a judge has now blocked the inclusion of the ballots, which were indeed rejected, though King's County says they made an error in so rejecting them.

As I understand it (though imperfectly), the new federal law prohibited a role for parties in the recount, though the state judge in Washington explicitly went against that and allowed the parties (over Repub objections) to canvas people whose ballots had been rejected.

As for the comparison to Bellesiles, you might not like my interpretations, but I haven't actually invented facts from whole cloth. That might be a distinction you should keep in mind.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/18/2004

I got the 'armored' figure and the 'disqualified' from the MSM. If you like, I'll track down the actual source. It would prove interesting to see your reaction.

Robert KC Johnson - 12/18/2004

As I understand it, the King County election officials erroneously disqualified these ballots. In this respect, it would seem that the judge's ruling misses the spirit of the law: what purpose is there to have hand recounts if not to catch errors such as this one?

Interestingly, before the judge's ruling, the former (Republican) secretary of state, who has been a strong Rossi backer, suggested the need for a new election, arguing that either candidate would be crippled upon being elected governor. I'd say that this is the best solution at present, since, in effect, a decision of the Washington Supreme Court as to whether these 723 ballots will or will not be counted will almost certainly decide the outcome--a less than ideal solution.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/17/2004

Richard, I don't know where you get the information that you keep reporting here at Cliopatria, but I am beginning to discount it very heavily. You reported that 2/3s or something like that of the military vehicles in Iraq are armor plated. The fact is that only 1/4th of the military vehicles in Iraq are armor plated by the manufacturer. In other words, you are counting something like 40% of the vehicles which are hoked up with plating as being plated. Rusted steel and broken glass dug out of dumps count as plated. And, here again, even by Matt Drudge's report, you are mis-stating things. These are _not_ ballots that had originally been disqualified. These are ballots that simply had not been counted. You've been studying your historiographical methods with Bellesiles again.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/17/2004

First Rossi won by something like 261 votes. Then there was a machine recount, and he led by 42. Then a manual recount, and he lead by 106. Then King County discoveres 561 ballots that had never been counted, since they had been disqualified. Then it was 22 more. And now it is up to 723 ballots from King County. Of course, some of them have never been secured during the course of the counts and recounts. Oops. In any case, when it was under 600 votes from King County, the Seattle paper said that at the rate of the rest of the county, only a gain of 80 would accrue to Gregoire -- not enough to beat Rossi's lead of 106. Then, of course, they found over a hundred more. We live in an amazing country.