Friday, January 14, 2011

Counting the chickens before they've hatched

When it comes to learning the final results of an election, many political geeks get as anxious as children on Christmas morning - they log on to the Secretary of State's website or King County Elections long before the polls close on election night in anticipation, and begin hitting the "refresh" button on their browser repeatedly at 8:00:01 pm until the see numbers on their screen.

What happens when they see results? They wait just as eagerly for the updates - a process that sometimes drags out for days.

Would it be nice to have the results sooner?

Yes - absolutely: Not because it would satisfy the impatience of political junkies, but to bring a bit more public confidence to our political process system. Public perception matters, and it's hard for the public to have faith in a process that leaves itself open to conspiracy theories about delays being due to ballot-box stuffing when the real issue is one of basic logistics.

One idea begin proposed in Olympia is Senate Bill 5015, which would allow the early tabulation of ballots - that is actually counting the votes - as early as 36 hours before an election is actually over.

Since all but one of Washington's 49 counties is all vote-by-mail, elections offices all over the state are sitting on millions of ballots - why not get a head-start on a time-consuming process?

Here's what I told the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee yesterday during the three minutes that were allowed under their rules:

Yes, I have a vivid imagination.

But I've also been around enough political campaigns and watched enough elections to know how things work in the real world. Political strategists are very creative in finding and exploiting every advantage they can to benefit their candidate or cause.

Whatever your politics - do you trust the other side to not do something exactly as I described?

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