The Democratic Party is asking the Washington Supreme Court to enter perilous territory. The party wants the court to order all county canvassing boards to reconsider ballots they...
The Democratic Party is asking the Washington Supreme Court to enter perilous territory.
The party wants the court to order all county canvassing boards to reconsider ballots they rejected as illegal. The party is also arguing that partisan observers should be allowed to challenge the boards’ decisions. Taken together, this is a recipe for confusion. It is Pandora’s box, and the court should not open it.
In its complaint, the party argues that reconsidering all rejected ballots “will assure that all lawful votes are counted, that consistent standards are applied statewide, and that all voters are treated fairly, equally and consistently.”
If that’s what it was, all good citizens should support it. But in practice it would be an attempt to identify barely plausible ballots and to use all possible arguments to get them accepted.
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Mostly, these would be arguments about signatures. Every absentee and provisional ballot has to be signed, and the law says the signature has to “match” the one on file. The standard is the same statewide and needs no clarification. But whether signatures match is a matter of judgment.
Canvassing boards do make mistakes about this, and there is a way of correcting them. Anyone who voted lawfully by absentee or provisional ballot may check after the first round whether the ballot was counted, and if not, to go to the board and have it counted. Some voters have done this, but by law they had to do it before the winner of the first recount was certified.
Canvassing boards have the discretion to correct errors presented to them even after the winner is certified. But fixing mistakes is different from ordering a wholesale reinspection of rejected ballots.
The result will be a quick move to the courtroom. In each of Washington’s 39 counties, lawyers for either the Democrats or the Republicans will be asking a judge to second-guess decisions of canvassing boards. This will have little to do with consistent standards statewide and a lot to do with winning.
That way, our next governor could be determined by who has the best lawyers. It would be a grand battle, but as a way to pick the next governor of Washington it would be about the worst method possible.
It would also be precedent-setting interference in an election by the Washington Supreme Court, which is itself elected. The court would be wise to stay out and allow state and local elections officials to finish their work.