Don’t be so quick to euthanize the mainstream media.
While a bunch of us liberal bloggers have been trying for weeks to convincingly explain why King County’s variance between voters credited and ballots cast is an irrelevant load of crap, it took a real reporter doing real reporting to finally, finally get the story straight. The Seattle P-I’s Neil Modie actually bothers to interview experts, ask them pertinent questions, and accurately report their responses in context. (I gotta get me one of them journalism schoolbooks.)
The result is a definitive answer to the question of what this so-called “discrepancy” really means. (Hint: absolutely nothing.)
The head of the nation’s largest election system thinks King County displayed amazing accuracy in a bureaucratic process that the Republican Party is focusing on in its attempt to overturn the governor’s election.
But Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Conny McCormack also thinks it’s irrelevant.
While King County officials defend the process in question as highly accurate and GOP critics call it shockingly inaccurate, McCormack said it’s a red herring, a flap over a postelection file-maintenance chore that has no bearing on the accuracy of the election returns.
“It has nothing to do with the ballot-counting. It’s a separate process,” she said this week. A nationally recognized authority on election administration and reform, McCormack made the comments in an interview given at the urging of King County election officials.
The criticism, she said, is “maligning the accuracy of the count based on something that has nothing to do with the accuracy of the count.”
Oh man… do you really need it spelled out any clearer than that? Well if so, Modie obliges:
After election results are certified, election workers electronically scan voters’ signatures into records. The purpose is to record, for future elections, who voted in the last one so that registration files can be purged of inactive voters and political parties and campaigns can obtain voters’ names and voting-frequency data.
Logan and McCormack said that record-keeping process, which they said is susceptible to human error, is being confused with the process of reconciling the number of ballots cast at each precinct and the number of people who voted at each precinct.
Those two numbers are supposed to be matched up before the final results are certified 15 days after the election. Logan said that’s the necessary check on election accuracy.
“It’s apples and oranges,” McCormack said. “I think someone is trying to confuse” the two (processes).
Of course, GOPolitburo Chair Chris “I’m rubber you’re glue” Vance accuses Democrats of trying to create confusion, calling the explanation “smoke and mirrors and jargon and gobbledygook.” Meanwhile, soon-to-be-unemployed Rossi spokesperson Mary Lane admits to being confused herself, saying it “makes no sense to me. They’re trying to condescend to us and say, ‘Oh, you don’t understand.'”
Um… Mary… maybe that’s because you don’t understand. Perhaps a fellow Republican can better explain it to you.
Secretary of State Reed said he thinks most counties don’t even calculate voter-crediting variances “because it’s not particularly relevant to anything meaningful.”
How devastating is Modie’s article to the Republican’s manufactured outrage? Well one of the state GOP’s leading outrage manufacturers, Sound Politics, seems downright tongue tied. Indeed, the Snark’s only rebuttal is to ridicule LA County Elections for being even more inaccurate than King County.
But then, to address the rest of the article would force Snark to issue a correction for comments he attributed to former KC Elections Director Bob Bruce:
I spoke with Bob Bruce later on Monday afternoon. He doesn’t recall the exact number of the 2000 discrepancy but said it was “under 20”. Bruce also told me that in his 12 years in senior positions at King County elections he never saw a discrepancy that was anywhere near as large as the 2004 discrepancy and can’t imagine what would explain it.
Well either Snark didn’t understand the issue well enough to ask the right questions… or he didn’t understand Bruce’s answers, for as Modie (the real journalist) reports:
Bruce, who was King County elections superintendent and later the records and elections director for 13 years, until 2002, said that discrepancy wasn’t even calculated when he was there because it wasn’t necessary, and it “should not be an issue” now.
“We never bothered doing a comparison (of the variance with those of previous elections) because we never needed to,” Bruce said. “But I would guess that it would probably have been about the same number” as the 2004 variance.
Bruce was quoted recently as saying the discrepancy in the 2000 presidential election was less than 20 votes. But yesterday he explained, “We’re not talking about crediting. We’re talking about the variance between the number of names in the poll book and the number of people who voted,” a reflection of actual election-return accuracy.
If that type of discrepancy turns up in a precinct-by-precinct reconciliation of the election canvassing process, Logan said, “then we run (returns from) that polling place again” during the canvass to find the error.
So there it is. Now we all understand what “The Discrepancy” is, and what it isn’t. And we owe it all to (gasp) the MSM.
While we’re on the subject of public misconceptions about the integrity of the election, I thought I’d add this comment from Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed (from the transcript of a live chat published in The Olympian, via WashBlog, via Progressive Majority for Washington):
Moderator: Anything, Sam, you want so say that you haven’t had a chance to address? Any urban myths?
Reed: Actually, there is, you are right. A frustration of mine as a person with considerable experience in the field of elections is that some of the rumors of errors, mistakes, illegalities, were absolutely incorrect, but because of the Internet, blogs and talk radio, they were circulated rapidly and extensively and helped contribute to the loss of confidence and trust in the system. I would hope in the future that the people who operate these blogs and the talk radio hosts will exercise the caution and ethics of the journalism profession, and that will help the citizery understand what really happened in the election process.
Hear that Stefan? Sam’s talking to you.