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.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Political Theory, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ken says:

    I think the thing to do is to have all sides respect the vote of those people who voted. Count all the ballots. Whoever has more votes is the next governor.

    The problems lie not so much in the fact that procedures on the part of election officials led to mistakenly setting aside ballots without counting them as in the conservatives persistent attempt to prohibet these ballots from ever being counted.

    What does it matter if it takes one, three, five or fifteen tries to get all legitimate votes counted? Think of it as accounting, or inventoring. No one complains how many times it takes to get the numbers right. What is important is to get the job done accurately.

  2. James Joyner says:

    The problem, Ken, is that ballots “found” after the first count in an election, especially when they go overwhelmingly for the loser, are obviously suspect. How do we know they weren’t created after the fact?

  3. ken says:

    James, you are implying something nefarious where you have absolutely no evidence of that. In fact given the chain of possession with these things they are prima facia legitimate unless you have any evidence to the contrary. So they are not ‘obviously suspect’ at all.

    But the big question is why would you not allow absentee ballots from being counted when they were so obviously set aside mistakenly in the first place? I am referring to those absentee ballots where the signitures did not at first match up to a computer scan.

  4. JOEL says:

    neither one of the parties can really claim victory.the only fair thing to do is have a revote and see if they can come up with an obvious winner.
    this election is tied!!!

  5. dw says:

    The absentee ballots themselves weren’t the problem; the deadline of an Election Day postmark was. And, honestly, any attempt to dump or curb absentee balloting in Washington would result in a nasty initiative getting passed in retribution. A few years ago the Dems and GOP sued to get the state’s open primary (that is, anyone could vote in the party’s primary regardless of what they were on the books) dumped. The courts sided in their favor. Next thing you know the state passes a Louisiana-style top-two primary intiative over the vociferous objections of the parties. You try to curb the absentee ballot any more than fixing the deadline for getting the ballots in, you’re committing political suicide.

    You want to fix fraud in the system? Don’t ban Motor Voter — after all, that does require you to present yourself as who you are. Don’t ban the absentee ballot, since you still have to register in person. No, the best solution is pretty simple — a national voter registration system driven by a national ID card.

    Of course, that would never happen. But what we really need to find is a single key for every American that will insure that they will vote once and only in an area where they live, and honestly, a national database would do just that.

    BTW, we’re really getting tired of the Ukraine comparisons up. There’s just no comparison. There was clear fraud and bullying in the Ukraine balloting. Washington’s problem is high turnout mixing with sheer incompetence. It’s like comparing the 1972 US-USSR basketball game and Paul Hamm’s gold medal this last time around. There’s just no comparison.

  6. Mike says:

    Ken….counting all the votes sounds like a good idea to me….as long as all the votes are counted in all the counties. If you introduce the concept of new votes from past rejected votes or re-canvassing…then all counties should apply the same rules. Hold another election.

  7. Mike says:

    Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that King County’s newly found and past rejected ballots be re-canvassed and recounted….all counties in Washington should do the same.

  8. Darrell says:

    Most people in the State, {68%} believe that Rossi is the legitimate winner, after the 1st. recount. No matter how many times you get a different result after that. If every vote should count as the Dems say, then we should count every military vote that came in late do to the fact that the incompetent idiots at King Co. didn’t mail them out early enough. The soldiers fighting for our country have a greater moral right to have their votes counted than the felons who registered to vote using the King Co. Safety Bldg. as their home address. The so-called homeless who registered is a joke and a fraud. Count the military votes and Rossi kicks Chris’ ass. The Dems will try to do everything to prevent another recount, too, because they know that they will lose in a landslide now.

  9. peggy dietz says:

    i want a revote for the governors race

  10. Walt says:

    Setting aside the “certified” results, just consider how screwed up this election was. The voting public has been insulted by the politicos inability to conduct the election in any convincing fashion. Now we are further insulted by officials’ stated belief that another count would lead to different results. Only a fool would conclude that the vote tallies have any validity, regardless of your politics.

    Of course, we do have to ask ourselves what makes us think a revote would be prosecuted any more effectively?

  11. Marilyn says:

    Many of our servicepeople overseas did not receive their ballots in time to vote and return them in a timely manner. My 20-year-old grandson is serving in Iraq. This was his first chance to vote. It would be a shame if his vote is not counted because county officials in Washington state did not mail the ballots early enough.

    We need to RE-VOTE!

  12. L.J. BONAR says:

    As an ‘Independent’ I have voted across party lines over the past 30 years, believing that attributes of the candidate was more important than the respective party rants. Being a retired Military person, during active years of service, I would dare say that my absentee ballot probably were counted less than 50% of the time. Now we have Washington State, my abode, with an election controversy that is a bigger mess than Florida 2000. The WA legislature is sumarrily dismissing any consideration for a revote. This is unacceptable if it is the desire of the citizens of the State feel it is necessary, in light of the irregularities that have occured in the course of the election and subsequent recounts. We have learned that canvassing boards in each county have some of their own rules; that machine recounts don’t count as much as a less accurate total hand count; that canvassing boards such as King County enhanced and altered ballots (which we have learned is allowed under election rules, that were not common knowledge among the voting public); that homeless and displaced people may list a public building as their legal voting residence, and etc. With the current level of lack of confidence in the latest outcomes, and the discovery of large disparities between the number of votes cast as opposed to the number of legal voting signatures–is an unacceptable situation. The WA legislature should step up to the plate and accede to the legitimate concerns of the electorate. They are in Olympia to serve the citizens of Washington.

  13. Jeff says:

    How’s this
    In the real world 2 out of 3 wins
    In the real world if you were’nt counted the first time too bad
    in the real world if you miss the boat all you get is wet
    “We” all live in the real world so how about doing what the real people want this time
    When all is said and done, IN THE REAL WORLD,LOSER BUYS!

  14. connie finister says:

    why revote the best woman already won, give it a break.
    lets get on with the job at hand to meny people are dying and suffering and the govenors want to fight over votes. this is in human.
    our boys are fighting for our daily living, people are dying of cancer. so meny other things are going on the vote is the last thing that should be at hand now..

    please respone