Ten days after the election the votes are still being tallied, but the outcome only grows murkier with every passing day, setting the stage for a constitutional crisis that could grind our nation’s capital to a halt. What looked like a comfortable margin on election night has been shrinking steadily ever since, and with over 7,000 ballots left to count, and more arriving everyday, the lead could still changes.
That’s the sort of nightmare scenario that Secretary of State Sam Reed and his surrogates argue could only happen here in Washington state with our allegedly “absurd” postmarked by election day ballot deadline, but in fact it’s exactly what is happening in New York state in the hotly contested election for NY-23, only sorta, and not really as dramatically as the headline writers imply.
Trailing by 5,335 votes on election night, with 93 percent of the ballots counted, right-wingnut Doug Hoffman conceded the race, prompting Democrat Bill Owens to be swiftly sworn in to the House, just in time to cast a crucial vote in favor of healthcare reform. But as ballots continued to be tallied and errors were uncovered during recanvassing, Owens lead has shrunk to little more than 3,000 votes, with as many as 10,000 ballots remaining, raising the specter that the wrong man has been sworn into Congress.
Of course, the chance of Hoffman making up a 3,000 vote gap with so few ballots remaining is just shy of nil, but that hasn’t stopped the media from playing up the drama of what admittedly would be a really juicy story… you know, in the unlikely event it turned out to be true. Nor would this be the first time House leadership rushed to swear in the alleged winner of a special election before the results had been officially certified; the Republicans set that precedent.
But I find the hyperbolic coverage of this story most interesting, not just because it once again illustrates the point that shit happens, regardless of your election deadlines, but because it also clearly demonstrates how Reed and his surrogates are just plain wrong on one of their most basic “facts.”
Yesterday on KUOW, Reed once again stated that “most states” require ballots be received by election day, an assertion that has been repeated in media reports, but which is simply not true. New York state, for example, requires that ballots be postmarked the day before election day, and received no later than seven days after. But ballots from overseas citizens and uniformed service members are accepted as late as 13 days following the election, meaning that valid ballots will continue to arrive in NY-23 as late as next Monday.
Yes, there have been a couple excruciatingly close and drawn out contests here in Washington, but as rare as they are, they’re far from unique to our state and our mail-in voting system. Democracy is messy. Deal with it.