Seven weeks after Election Day, we have arrived at our Florida moment. As precarious as the race for governor has been so far, today it could truly veer off a cliff — potentially...
Seven weeks after Election Day, we have arrived at our Florida moment.
Our state Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether King County can count up to 735 ballots that were rejected seven weeks ago in a bureaucratic screw-up.
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What was so jolting about the 2000 presidential election is that it ended when a court stepped in and declared: No, you cannot recount the votes. You cannot try to get a better sense of who really won.
In a clearly partisan 5-to-4 ruling, the court decided the presidency. It was a shocking low point in American democracy. The court said: Voters don’t have the final say, we do.
Today, in Olympia, the legal details are different, the stakes smaller. But the overarching principle is the same: Do we count all the legally cast votes? Or is the will of the voters going to be obscured by judges?
Let’s be clear about these 735 ballots, as all manner of partisan hacks have cast aspersions on them. There is zero evidence they are fraudulent. They were never “missing” and suddenly found by scheming elections officials.
They are absentee ballots still in their original envelopes, still sealed, with the voters’ signatures on the outside.
All are either postmarked or dated Nov. 2 or earlier. Nobody has broken the seals to look at the ballots inside (they might all be write-ins for Ron Sims, for all we know).
They were rejected because county employees thought they did not have signatures for those voters, but they failed to check the original paper registration forms.
If the signatures match those of voters on valid registration forms, then how could we not open the envelopes and count the votes?
Republicans argue that in a recount you can tally only those votes that were counted the first time.
State law isn’t clear on this point. In one section it says a recount is a “retabulation.” In another it says a county can revisit any votes to correct “any error that it finds.”
For as long as anyone can remember, counties finding legal, uncounted votes during a recount have made the blindingly obvious choice to count them. Six counties have done so just in the past few weeks.
A major advantage we have over Florida is our state elections chief, Republican Sam Reed, cares more about voters than partisan politics. He says if the court bars King County from counting its votes, then logically these other counties must uncount hundreds of votes they have already tallied.
That’s retroactive disenfranchisement. Even Florida didn’t try that.
So far our election has been marred only by mistakes. Officials across the state have ignored the shrill, irresponsible claims from both parties, instead serving their true masters: the voters.
The state Supreme Court ought to do the same. Or else we’ll all be heading down an election rabbit hole that goes deeper than Florida.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.