Saturday, December 16, 2006

Humans 1, Machine 0

Republicans got their way: A hand recount of 23,000 ballots in the super-tight 156th District election will begin Tuesday.

Democrats, who hold a 23-vote edge in the race and, as a result, a one-seat majority in the state House of Representatives, wanted a machine recount.

Read on, from today's Inquirer:

The Democrats may appeal yesterday's decision, attorney Clifford Levine said.

"We think this really plays into the Republicans' efforts to prolong the recount," Levine said. "We are very frustrated because we proposed a system that could be done in one day."

Earlier this week the head of Voter Services, Linda Cummings, estimated that a machine recount would take at least six days - which Democrats disputed - and that a hand recount would require seven to 10.

Levine also took issue with some of the recounting procedures. Democrats had proposed using machines to count the clearly marked ballots, and to have unclear votes hand-tabulated, he said.

"The hand count being proposed said if there are questions raised about certain ballots, however frivolous, those ballots don't get counted," he said. "Having all the votes count is very important to us."

Lawrence Tabas, an attorney for the GOP, said the narrow margin was less than the margin of error of the vote-tallying machines.

"I'm not saying the machines are faulty, but everything has a margin of error. Machines make mistakes," Tabas said. "This is exactly what we had asked for, and we think the voters of the 156th state House district are also winners because a manual count will offer the highest degree of reliability."

He disputed Levine's statement that the Republicans were trying to delay the final election result.

"What we find puzzling is in open court and filings, they demand an expedient recount, but through their legal maneuvering they've delayed this by 10 days," he said.

Tabas also dismissed Levine's claim that some votes would not be counted. Unclear ballots would be set aside and the court will ultimately determine their status, he said.

"No ballots are going to be discarded under any circumstances," Tabas said.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Here is a suggestion which could move the hand count along much faster.

First, one party's recount team should go through a portion of the ballots and select those which are obvious votes for the opposing candidate. Then, the other party's team does the same in reverse. Royer's team picks obvious votes for Smith. Smith's team picks obvious votes for Royer.

To take a round number, let's say they do this with quotas of 1,000 ballots at a time. The teams would continue to alternate until all the obvious ballots are identified. At a guess (and if the teams have any sense of integrity), this would likely get 20,000 or more ballots decided on the first day.

Then, both teams would go through the remainder of ballots and pass on those few on which they cannot agree to the presiding judge.

To a third grader, this system would be no problem. It should not be beyond the capabilities of the lawyers and election officials.

If both teams want to get this done honestly and quickly, they might at least consider such a system.