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December 17, 2004
Washington's Electoral Meltdown

The ongoing soap opera of Washington's gubernatorial election continues today with two new developments. The AP reports now that King County, a Democratic stronghold, has discovered yet another batch of supposedly uncounted, valid absentee ballots, bringing the total to over 700 that are in dispute. This follows a suggestion from the state GOP that only another election will restore confidence in the results:

With Washington state in the middle of a recount of its amazingly close governor's race, election officials in Seattle's King County entered a warehouse Friday and found a plastic tray containing 150 misplaced ballots.

The discovery brings the number of belatedly discovered ballots to 723 in the heavily Democratic county potentially enough to swing the election to Democrat Christine Gregoire.

Republican Dino Rossi won the Nov. 2 election over Gregoire by 261 votes in the first count and by 42 after a machine recount of the 2.9 million ballots cast. On Thursday, with every county except King, Pierce and Spokane reporting, Rossi had pulled ahead by 74 votes.

These ballots continue to appear in dribs and drabs and seem to have some relationship to the number needed in the 60-40 Democratic split that King County reported in their initial vote counts. Whenever Republican Dino Rossi has expanded his lead through recounts in other counties, King County has miraculously discovered new absentee ballots that supposedly are eligible but have yet to be counted. Either King County election officials may be the most incompetent in the nation or someone is manufacturing ballots to throw the election.

The frustration from these miraculous apparitions has the GOP seeing re-vote in Washington, as Michelle Malkin noted earlier:

Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, a key supporter of Republican Dino Rossi during the contentious recounts in Washington's race for governor, says it may be time to toss out all of the votes and do the election over.

Munro, who oversaw the state's elections system for 20 years before retiring in 2000, said a new vote is probably the only way to restore voter confidence and get a clear winner. ...

"This thing could just degenerate and spiral downward," Munro said yesterday. "Whoever eventually becomes governor is going to have a very hard time governing, and we're going to go through four years of flopping around."

Democrats attacked the proposal, which admittedly sounds a bit far-fetched and could establish an uncomfortable precedent. However, it shows how far the process has disintegrated in Washington and why electoral laws established prior to the election have to govern any recount or challenge process afterward. Fashioning as-you-go solutions to the nightmare of a disputed election does nothing but undermine the eventual outcome, a lesson we learned in Florida four years ago and in San Diego and Ohio this cycle.

So far, Washington courts have forced everyone to stick to the law. God help them if the courts try to emulate the Florida Supreme Court's approach and gin up a new process that trumps the legislature. Washingtonians may never know who actually won the election if that happens.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 17, 2004 12:54 PM

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