February 18, 2008
Counting every vote
Making ‘one person one vote’ a reality in this country
In the rush-rush hurry-hurry to announce election results there have already been some miscounts and uncounted ballots this primary season. This should not happen. If we are going to truly be a democracy of “one person one vote” we need to be sure that all ballots cast by eligible voters are counted.
For example, there’s the recent example in the Washington state Republican caucuses where the winner was declared in a close race before all the votes were counted. Entire counties did not have their results included in the tally:
In Washington’s caucuses, the two were in a close duel, with McCain leading Huckabee by less than two points with 87% of the votes counted. And then a funny thing happened: state party chair Luke Esser called the election for McCain and stopped the count.
Of course Huckabee’s campaign cried foul and threatened legal action. Now party chair Esser says
The party will try to get as “close as we can to 100 percent.” Apparently close now counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades, and the Washington state GOP caucus.
The Huckabee campaign is still not satisfied with this assurance, particularly since Esser has close ties to the chair of McCain’s Washington state campaign committee AG Rod McKenna
Esser joined then King County Councilmember McKenna’s staff in 1996, and stayed on as a top aide even after Esser was elected first to the state house and then the state senate. Esser was paid for his help on McKenna’s successful 2004 campaign for Attorney General, and was rewarded with a plum assignment as “Outreach Director”, the perfect position in the AG’s office for a lawyer with very little legal experience. Then, after Esser lost his senate reelection bid in 2006, McKenna used his pull as the highest elected Republican in the state to help oust then WSRP Chair Diane Tebelius and replace her with his pal Esser, who proceeded to do political work on the public’s dime, while initially drawing pay checks from both the AGO and the state party. On resigning from the AG’s office under public pressure, Esser took pains to detail his close affection and ties to McKenna, writing in his resignation letter: “… Rest assured that I will always be available if I can ever be helpful to you.” http://www.blueoregon.com/2008/02/and-essers-patr.html
Huckabee’s campaign has even more reason for unease since the vote-counting will not be conducted in public — or even with a representative of the Huckabee campaign present during the count.
When the lawyer, Lauren Huckabee, the candidate’s daughter-in-law, requested that a Huckabee lawyer be present when the remaining votes were counted, Esser hung up on her. http://www.blueoregon.com/2008/02/whats-the-matte.html
But Washington is not the only state with uncounted ballots.
In Los Angeles county California, more than 94,000 ballots sit untallied because of the so-called “double bubble.” This situation is different from the problem in Washington in that it affects only so-called “DTS” (Declined to State) voters who cast ballots (or at least tried to cast ballots) in the Democratic presidential primary.
The Los Angeles system requires that decline-to-state voters not only ask specifically for a Democratic ballot – but also fill in a special bubble on the ballot specifically indicating their desire to vote on the Democratic presidential ticket. Failure to fill in the bubble voids their presidential ballot. http://tinyurl.com/26hvy2
But there are a lot of voters (94.5 thousand) whose ballots will not be counted because they failed to fill in an extra “bubble” on the ballot saying that they intended to vote in the Democratic primary, which they surely indicated when they asked for and marked a Democratic ballot.
This is all about determining voter intent. It is pretty clear when someone asks for a Democratic ballot and then votes for that person that they intended to vote for a Democrat. The second bubble is not necessary to determine intent. The ballot was designed this way to make vote tabulation faster, but the side effect is that voters are disenfranchised. http://tinyurl.com/26hvy2
Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, commented on the potential serious impact on the results of the presidential primary:
Both parties will award delegate votes to their candidates based on results by congressional district and Los Angeles County is home to a dozen congressional districts. So it could impact a lot of delegate votes, depending on how close the results are by congressional district.”
More than 750,000 non-partisan voters, or a quarter of the state’s registered voters live in Los Angeles County. If a chunk of these voters were disenfranchised, Alexander said it could alter the statewide presidential primary results.
“It really depends on how close the races are,” Alexander said. http://www.dailynews.com/breakingnews/ci_8175116
Given that the Democratic party awards delegates proportionally by Congressional district, the loss of a significant chunk of votes because of this nonsensical double bubble fiasco, could lead to distorted results in any given district. It is conventional wisdom that many of the uncounted DTS ballots were cast by supporters of Barack Obama, since he has attracted so many independents and crossover voters in other states. But this is only a hypothesis unless all the votes are counted. It is possible that there are many Hillary Clinton votes that sit uncounted. We just don’t know.
This is a clear case where all the votes should be counted. No voter should be disenfranchised by a confusing ballot design: we saw enough of that with the infamous “butterfly ballot” in Florida in 2000. And we all vowed: ” Never again.” But here it is almost 8 years later and we still have bad ballot designs and election officials who refuse to do the right thing.
It’s really very simple. Both in Washington and Los Angeles, there is only one solution that is fair to all voters.
Count. The. Votes.
Count. All. The. Votes.
Just do it already.