Despite the rumors surrounding the 2004 governor's race, at least one certainty is quite clear: Our democracy is not falling apart at the seams. Solid procedures are in place to...

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Despite the rumors surrounding the 2004 governor’s race, at least one certainty is quite clear: Our democracy is not falling apart at the seams.

Solid procedures are in place to handle the recount and its contested ballots fairly and accurately.

At the heart of the public debate is whether to count 700-plus contested ballots in King County. Some argue all should count, while others maintain — just as passionately — this group of ballots should be rejected.

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As is often the case with election law, the answer is not that simple. No all-or-nothing solution exists.

Each contested ballot must be judged on its own merits so that every voter is given full consideration in the democratic process.

What are the standards?

In a recount, your ballot is held to the same standards used in the original count.

Your ballot counts if:

• You are a registered voter of the state of Washington;

• Your signature matches the signature on your voter registration card;

• Your ballot arrived on time;

• And you clearly voted for one candidate in the governor’s race.

If it’s unclear these standards have been met, the ballots are sent to an independent county canvassing board. Canvassing boards are made up of the county’s chief election official, the prosecuting attorney and a member of the county legislative body. Canvassing boards have a long history in Washington of rising above partisan politics.

In a recount, a canvassing board should not reconsider counting contested ballots it has already properly reviewed and rejected. Nor should it count ballots that have been sitting in an unsecured location.

However, canvassing boards should consider counting ballots that were mistakenly tossed out by election workers and give each its full review under the law.

Washington’s voting process is not perfect. It demands constant improvement. In January, I will announce a series of election reforms resulting from lessons learned in the 2004 governor’s race.

Even so, and especially in the midst of controversy and court challenges, voters should take great pride in our strong history of fair and accurate elections.

This historic recount should run its course and the people should select our next governor.

Public trust and confidence in our democracy is as important as the outcome of this race.


Sam Reed is Washington’s secretary of state.