The Debacle Of Washingtons Governors Race In 2004
Rossi led Gregoire by only 260 votes in Washington State’s 2004 Governor’s Race. This was the outcome of the first voting results in Washington state’s Governor’s Race, and as with any race this close; calling for a recount was Rossi’s only option, as it was also mandatory since the spread was less than 2,000 votes, and called for a machine recount, since only a hand recount is called if the spread is less than 150. Three counts of nearly 3 million ballots, four lawsuits, and seven weeks later the state of Washington discovered that what was thought to be a simple recount, turned into months of unfairness and disharmony. After the first machine recount Gregoire was only 42 counts behind, which by law, called for yet another count, but this time it had to be by hand. Another three million ballots later, the State of Washington came to its third result: Democrat Christine Gregoire won the race for governor by 130 votes over Republican Dino Rossi. Rossi, along with thousands of supporters, immediately claimed that it wasn’t a clean election. Why wasn’t this a clean election? Well let’s first cover what exactly entails an election.
There are fifty-one different types of voting methods, but only five of which we will consider for the purpose of this paper, along with these methods comes many different problems. Punch card voting which is when voters slide the punch card into a slot, which secures it underneath the pages of the ballot book while each page of the ballot book lists candidates for a particular office. Once the voting is completed, the voter drops the perforated punch card in a sealed ballot box. There is no indication to the voters on the punch card as to which punch corresponds to which candidate. Because the punch card is slipped underneath the ballot book, voters cannot see that the punch as punched out the appropriate chad. Therefore, voters do not receive information as to which candidates they voted for. The second voting method is optical scanning. This entails the voters to fill in bubbles with designated pencils supplied by the voting location. A few, but serious problems arise when dealing with optical scanning. If the voter failed to correctly fill in the bubble he or she intended, the optical scanner may miss the vote. Also, if a voter has fills in a bubble my mistake and goes back to erase it, it is common for the optical scanning machine to count the bubble with the erase marks. The Third voting method is a machine scan which is “known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) devices, they allow the voter to select candidates by pushing buttons or touching spaces on a screen which displays the image of a ballot. The devices are programmed to prevent over-voting (and the consequent loss of your intended ballot), and can prompt for under voting, for instance, by flashing a light above each office until a vote for that office has been recorded.” The fourth voting method is a paper ballot. This is simply a piece of paper which the voter marks with X’s in the appropriate boxes and turns into a ballot box for hand counting. This method has a margin for error, due mainly to the pure stupidity of the general public. Voters will provide a check mark when it clearly asks for an X, or will check the wrong box. The last method of voting is a mail in ballot, this is the same thing as a paper ballot, and the only difference is the voter mails it in to be counted. This is usually done when a voter is going to be out of their state during the voting day, so they fill out their ballot early and mail it in on the voting day. The margin for error is high for this method due to the plethora of lost ballots in the mail every year. Voting recounts entail different methods. After an election, if the spread is less that 2,000 a machine recount is required, and if the spread is less than 150 a hand count is required. This almost always brings back different results and is not a definite accurate result. There is always margin for error, especially in recounting. During the first recount Washington’s King County discovered 573 ballots that had previously been mistakenly rejected in the initial tabulations. Also 750 ballots were found from soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq that had been mistakenly rejected also. Many people claim that the fact their ballots could be mistakenly rejected at any time, during any race, is unfair.
That brings us to our questions of value. Fairness and harmony are two of the values we will consider for this paper. Fairness and harmony will be considered within three different categories: voting methods, voting tabulation, and recounting. There will never be a perfect voting system, but there can be a voting system that is most efficient. Before we consider how to find this system, we must define define fairness and harmony to better understand how to fill those necessities. Fairness according to Webster’s Dictionary is: Fairness is “marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism” Fairness, I believe, is the most important thing to consider in a voting system, after all voters do not only pursue their own political interests when they vote, they also care about fairness. To further understand what fairness entails other than just a simple definition we will apply the fairness criteria set forth by University of Alabama. There are many different criteria when dealing with fairness, but we will only consider two of them, they are as follows: The Majority Criterion, the Condorcet Criterion, and the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives Criterion. The Majority Criterion states: “Any candidate receiving a majority of first place votes should be the winner.” In other words, this means that if candidate A receives 100 first place votes, while Candidate B received 98 votes, and declaring the B the winning would be deemed unfair. The Condorcet Criterion states: “Any candidate receiving a majority of first place votes should be the winner.” This means even if Candidate A received more first place votes, if Candidate B received more overall votes, naming Candidate B the winner would be the fair thing to do. The last criterion is the Independence of Irrelevant Alternative. These are two different opinions on how to calculate the votes and this argument really comes down to the debate of the Electoral College vs. popular vote. It seems as the most sensible thing would be to do the popular vote, since the candidate with the most votes should win. This I believe is the most fair in considering voting on a national scale. Alaska is deemed three electoral votes, doesn’t that seem unfair and like Alaska’s votes are less important than the rest of them? Really, in the Electoral College, they are less important. Alaska could vote for a candidate over and over again and their votes wouldn’t matter if California or another big state voted for the opposition. Since the Electoral College doesn’t have much to do with State voting we will move on to another subject regarding fairness. Fairness, whether it’s actually fair or not, can been deemed when every citizen feels as peace with the voting method and feels as if their votes was just as important as the rest. This is why the states must design a system so that voters may gain this satisfaction of fairness. Later on we will propose an agenda to do so. Another important question of value is harmony. Harmony is dealt with within fairness, as if we have harmony in our voting system, then that means we feel that it is fair. Harmony is another very important aspect, without it, we cannot trust our voting system, and therefore we have complete anarchy, as we did in the Washington State Governor’s race. How could Washingtonians ever trust that their ballots were being counted after a race like this? They can’t, unless Washington State proves to them that they can. Harmony is defined as “an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative”. This applies to voting methods since voting methods entail so many different categories, such as tabulation and recounting. All these categories must provide for a single narrative: peace.
Before we can start with the problem we must as ourselves what the story is a how can we formulate a question to answer. A question based on the facts and values provided thus far is: “What method, if any, at voting, vote tabulation and recounting, would best ensure fairness and harmony in WA elections?” This is our question of policy that we will consider while we find a solution to the voting problem. First we will look at the first half of the question: What method, if any, at voting, vote tabulation and recounting. This is clearly stating that we are not only considering voting methods, but also tabulation and recounting as they are all important in achieving the second part of the question: Ensuring Fairness and Harmony in WA elections. The importance of Fairness is more than the importance of time and money; therefore we will take all costs to ensure the voters will achieve fairness and harmony.
Here is an agenda that I deem to be acceptable and I believe would fulfill fairness and harmony, IF and only if it is actually done correctly, and the public has assurance it is done correctly. The agenda is as follows:
“Each precinct or poll site ballot counter shall print out results immediately following the closing of the polls. A copy of the results will be posted at the poll site or otherwise made available for public inspection.
The total of votes cast from each counter shall be reconciled with the number of signatures in the poll book(s) prior to transporting to the counting center. The total number of ballots reported on the results printout should equal the number of signatures in the poll book(s). Discrepancies shall be reported and explained by the Inspector.
In a sealed container, the data pack/chip of each ballot counter shall be transported to the counting center with each results printout.
The number of ballots issued should equal the number of ballots counted plus any ballots not counted. Ballots not counted may include, but not be limited to: Provisional ballots, ballots referred to the canvassing board, ballots to be enhanced or duplicated, ballots with write-in votes, any out-sorted ballots, spoiled ballots.
Any discrepancies must be investigated. At a minimum, the following areas must be checked until the discrepancy is resolved:
Check the accuracy of the ballot accountability form, Recount the signatures in the poll book, Ballot counter/direct recording device results, Check the spoiled ballots, Check the provisional ballots, Count the ballot stubs, Check the poll site supplies for ballots, Manually count the number of ballots, Call the poll workers.
All steps to reconcile each precinct shall be documented, including any discrepancies that cannot be resolved. Reconciliation of all precincts shall be completed and presented to the county canvassing board before the election may be certified.”
I believe a recount is unnecessary if this agenda is carried out correctly, and therefore should be banned in government races. Voting systems should get the right candidate BEFORE they announce the winner.
In the agenda we will consider different mini methods that are relevant. The first mini method that applies to the agenda is called Bets and Odds. This method calls for a question: What odds will you give that the presumption proves correct? This question is what our agenda is completely made up of. Odds of inerrancy which the state must take into consideration, because no matter what method of voting there will always be margins for errors, but if we repeat the method enough times, we will eventually come out with the correct answer. When asking yourself this question it puts the state on the honor system. If they answer this question with doubt in their voting method, then they should redo the method, or come up with one that they feel confident about. My agenda I am completely confident about if it is used correctly, due to the plethora of stages the ballots must be counted in, there is a small margin for error. There are four different steps when considering the odds of error and fairness within a voting system. The first step is to “ask what odds will your give that the presumption proves correct?” Step two is to “require each to specify what makes his answer different from the others.” Step three is to “Encourage argument, promote articulation of differences.” And the fourth step is to “review presumption accordingly.” All these questions must be asked when going through my agenda before the next step in counting the ballots is carried on. Another mini method we can apply to the agenda is the Goldberg Rule. This states “not to ask the problem, but rather ask what the story is. That was you will find out what the problem really is.” If you ask rather how the election went and what the story was, you’ll be able to find more errors rather than just looking for them. Ask the when, what, where, who, how, and why of the voting system and consider everything to be new information so that you can find errors within the voting. Also Janis’s discussion can also be applied to the agenda. Going through and answering the questions about the agenda is also a great way to find errors and guarantee fairness and thus, harmony.
In conclusion I believe the agenda proposed in this paper is the best agenda a State could have for their government races. When considering fairness and harmony I believe the agenda would fulfill both of them. Washington had a terrible governor’s race that will never be forgotten, although situations such as these are great learning tools and means of looking back at our methods and asking ourselves if they are really the best and provide for harmony. After this election when we ask ourselves this question, we must answer no; this is why I have proposed an agenda to correctly tabulate the voter results, while taking into account the necessity of fairness and harmony in a state governmental race such as the one taken place in Washington State for governor in the 2004 Washington elections.
1. “Election Certified in Violation of Agency Rules”. Sound Politics. 2004.
2. Galloway, Angela. “And our governor is…Check Back Next Week, Or Maybe Even Later.” November 17, 2004.
3. McGain, Chris. “Governor’s Race Could Hinge on High Court Decision.”
4. Vance, Chris. “The Truth about King County’s Magic Ballots.” 2004.
5. Definition of Fairness and Harmony.
6. Joyner, James. “Washington’s Stolen Governor’s Race.” 2004.