The Washington Supreme Court wisely refused to order county election officials to reconsider thousands of ballots previously rejected in the governor's race. In doing so, the court...

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The Washington Supreme Court wisely refused to order county election officials to reconsider thousands of ballots previously rejected in the governor’s race.

In doing so, the court refused to inject itself into the election and restored a measure of calm and confidence to the recount process, which by now is making everyone a little jumpy.
The court unanimously turned down a request by the Democratic Party seeking to force officials in 39 counties to review ballots not counted for a variety of reasons. The party went overboard in seeking new rules in the middle of the game.

Some ballots may not have been counted, for example, because a signature on an absentee ballot did not match the signature on file and the voter did not correct the record by the deadline.

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The high court’s decision will not affect 561 uncounted ballots in King County discovered last weekend. The ballots had been improperly excluded by election workers who failed to check signatures on file after computers did not reveal signatures for certain voters. The mistake was uncovered after King County Councilman Larry Phillips discovered his name on a list of people whose vote had not counted.

There is a significant difference between the 561 ballots and the ballots the court let stand. Election workers in King County erred by not re-connecting ballots with signatures on file. The mistake belongs to election workers, not the voter.

Adjustments have been necessary in other counties, too. Election workers in Whatcom County mistakenly did not count seven unopened, uncounted ballots.

The law provides a safety valve for such situations.

It is appropriate in a recount to correct errors made by election workers. It is venturing toward the absurd to ask canvassing boards in 39 counties to go back and re-visit all their earlier conclusions. Wholesale revisiting of previous decisions would have thrown the election into chaos.

The rules for reviewing ballots would not be different. The only change would be undue political pressure and presence of lawyers.

The recount needs to proceed under the same rules in effect from the beginning. The court’s decision was timely and appropriate.