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Friday, December 17, 2004
Most exciting thing going on right now is that I have been involved with the Washington State Governor's Race Recount. It's been interesting. The Republicans have been cordial and civil (except for a select few - we had one guy who I heard was sending obvious Gregoire votes to canvas for no discernible reason. This isn't a big worry, as the Canvas Board knows how to handle these things, but it is frustrating none the less).
The process is very elaborate. First they had to sort the ballots into their separate precincts (state law requires that they be counted by precinct). This was relatively easy for the poll ballots, as they were already sorted by polling place. Absentee ballots were another story. Originally the plan was that all the absentee ballots would be sorted at one facility over 3 or 4 days, and the poll ballots would be sorted at the facility where I was for the first 2 (seeing as there are twice as many absentee ballots as poll, this made sense). Unfortunately, this was not the case.
We finished up sorting at the main facility in a day and a half. We finished counting the poll ballots by the end of day 4. By this point I thought we were going to be done early, but alas I was being an optimist for once. If memory serves, we counted one or two legislative districts worth of sorted absentee ballots on day 5 (from the other facility), but by then we had run through all the sorted absentee ballots from the other facility - so we went back to sorting (which is boring, to put it lightly). It took four more days of sorting at both facilities to finish up, and we finally returned to counting absentee ballots yesterday (12/16 - day nine of this whole process!).
I've become a total elections dork, so I went to the Canvas Board meeting on Wednesday. I got there just as they were wrapping up talk of the 561 (or 573) ballots they "found", and the 22 ballots they really did "find". They took a quick recess, and when they came back they started to examine the 240+ ballots sent to Canvas by the counters (a lot of these were very picky counters sending ballots with one oval filled in completely, and a stray mark in another oval). The first few ballots were counted as "overvotes" (meaning that the person had voted for more than one candidate, and thus neither vote counted), but then Dwight Pelz (one of the three Canvas Board members) stepped in and started talking sense. He argued strongly that the whole point of a hand recount was to discern voter intent, not to follow arbitrary rules (as many of the counters had been doing). This argument went on for a few minutes, and he eventually got the other two board members to relent, and start looking at voter intent (he also motioned to dismiss their findings on the previous 3 or 4 ballots and to re-examine them under this new rubric). This is huge because the more votes counted in King, the more votes we get for Gregoire - yes, some of the votes went for Rossi, but (and I'm guessing here, as I had to leave early and wasn't keeping a tally) I'm willing to guess that most of them benefited Gregoire.
He did the right thing - the whole point of a hand recount is to have people, who posses better pattern recognition skills than a machine, look at each ballot and figure out what the voter meant. Oval "A" filled in completely, with a dot in oval "B" is clearly a vote for "A" in my book - and thankfully now, in the Canvas Boards book.
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