Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Remarkably Fine Mess

The irretrievable loss of some 4,438 votes, swallowed whole by a diabolical "touch-screen" ballot device in North Carolina's Carteret County, is very much a factor in what happens next in a couple of Council of State races that are still undecided.

In the final statewide county election canvass reports (including the provisional ballots ruled acceptable), Democrat June S. Atkinson is leading Republican Bill Fletcher for the Superintendent of Public Instruction by 7,979 votes.

Democratic incumbent Agriculture Secretary Britt Cobb is trailing Republican challenger Steve Troxler by 3,870 votes.

Both Republican Fletcher and Democrat Cobb are already calling for recounts, which they are entitled to under N.C. law. The recount will have to be completed by Wednesday, Nov. 17.

If the recounted tallies in either race give the victor a winning margin of under 4,438 votes, N.C. law would also allow the State Board of Elections to order a new election ... because of those lost Carteret ballots.

State Election Director Gary Bartlett said that state law allows for a new election "in certain circumstances" and that "it was unclear" whether a new vote would occur statewide or only in counties with irregularities. That's vagueness piled on vagueness. Since "early voting" across North Carolina tended to favor Democratic candidates by a wide margin, and since the ballots lost in Carteret were "early voting" ballots, Britt Cobb'd have to be half-cracked not to insist on a do-over election in Carteret.

But more to the point, and despite who ultimately wins, Republicans and Democrats both should be raising their collective voices to protest the use of voting machinery which produces no record, no permanent verifiable paper trail, and which is subject to the machinations of unseen and unknown hands.

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