Revote in Washington Governors Race?
John Fund poses the question, “Ukraine gets to revote. Why can’t Washington state?”
There is no provision in Washington state law for holding a new election. It would have to be ordered by the state Supreme Court or by a special session of the legislature. But now is the time to raise the issue because no one knows for sure which candidate will come out ahead this week in the final count. Sam Reed, the state’s secretary of state, says a rerun of the election is eminently doable and notes that a small town in Washington did rerun an election after it was discovered that some people who were ineligible had been allowed to cast ballots.
There is also a precedent for a statewide rerun of an election in recent times. In 1974, New Hampshire Democrat John Durkin ran for the U.S. Senate and very narrowly lost. A recount overturned the original result and gave Mr. Durkin a 10-vote lead over Republican Louis Wyman. But then the state’s Ballot Law Commission recounted the ballots and certified Mr. Wyman the winner by two votes. Mr. Durkin had no real evidence of fraud, but he contested the election anyway. The Democratic-controlled Senate sided with him and refused to honor the state’s certification. The seat remained vacant for seven months. The debate spanned 100 hours over a month with 35 inconclusive roll-call votes. The 1975 impasse ended only when Mr. Durkin agreed to a special election. He won that race, but then lost a bid for a second term in 1980.
If leaders of both parties could agree that the November election has been hopelessly compromised, public pressure for a clarifying rematch would build. It would be highly irregular, but so too is the fact that whoever wins the third count of votes would govern under a cloud in which their legitimacy would be questioned.
Aside from the question of whether a do-over is fair under the existing rules of the game, why would a revote be any less prone to manipulation and nonsense than the first one?
Fund is right about this one, though:
Let’s hope the public will also demand a thorough housecleaning of Washington state’s election laws, which imprudently allow 65% of its voters to cast troublesome absentee ballots.
Washington state’s predicament is also a warning flare for the rest of the country about how sloppy our election procedures still are. In most states we are just as unable to handle a photo-finish election as we were when the Bush v. Gore legal fight occurred in 2000; It’s time to redouble our efforts to make our elections something the rest of the world can’t snicker at.
Widespread absentee voting and such things as Motor Voter, which allows people to register to vote without establishing their identity, create a system ripe with opportunities for fraud. Given the litigious nature of modern American society, this means no close election in a meaningful race will ever be without taint. The loser will always go to court to overturn the results and/or claim the election was stolen.
Sadly, there is no easy way out of this mess.