About the only thing more distasteful than reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page, is quoting it to support my own arguments:
Still, we have our doubts about the wisdom of a court challenge and a revote, especially if no fraud can be proven.
Consider, first, the problem of moral hazard. There are dozens of extremely close elections in the U.S. at every level of government, elections in which–like this one–the “real” outcome can never be known. What should determine which of these merits a revote? The judgment of a court? An opinion poll? Either of these is a recipe not for more perfect democracy, but for the destruction of democracy.
(You can read the editorial here, but swallowing it whole requires registration and some Listerine.)
While much of the rest of the piece is the usual vile sophistry, the point above is why I am confident that the Washington Supreme Court will not reach beyond statute and toss the gubernatorial election without the strong appearance that errors or illegal votes actually changed the outcome. As I’ve repeatedly argued, this election is extraordinary only in its extraordinary closeness. There has been no evidence to suggest that this election is any less perfect than any other; thus to set it aside simply because it is close, calls into question all close elections.
Even the highly partisan WSJ understands the dangerous precedent such a decision would create. It would force all too many elections into the courts, where they will be decided on some arbitrary judicial notion of when the margin of error is too high, or public opinion too rancorous (manufactured or not.)
Some in the “revote” camp argue that seating a governor in the face of such uncertainty offends the public’s sense of fairness… but it clearly does not offend reason, or the law. Whatever the safeguards, no election with 3 million ballots can be 100% flawless. Some ineligible voters will always be counted, while legitimate voters are wrongly disenfranchised — there will always be errors in registration, counting, scanning and reconciliation. And yet if this race had ended in a tie, the winner would have been determined by lot.
Is that fair? Not really. But is it practical? Sure.
The statute codifies the pragmatic notion that in close elections, uncertainty is unavoidable. If the Legislature was unwilling to accept this simple reality, it would have modeled the contest statute along the lines of North Carolina’s, or it would have required a margin of victory substantially larger than… one.
And it never, ever would have accepted a tie.
For in fact, that’s what we have here: a statistical tie with the winner determined according to the rules in place at the start of the election. It may be difficult for the public — and painful for Dino Rossi — to accept this uncertainty. But sometimes uncertainty is the best we can do.