No New York, Virginia is not like Florida 2000

From the New York Times: Virginia: Voting Mess Was Never Supposed to Happen After Bush v. Gore  <read>

It was the electoral nightmare Virginia never wanted to experience: being host to a high-profile mess like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, with officials obsessing over questionable ballots as political power hangs in the balance. So 17 years ago, the state began writing a guidebook on how to handle such situations. The latest edition includes pictographs of ballots marked in unconventional ways — names crossed out, several boxes checked, “My guy” scrawled over a candidate’s name. Despite the best intentions to avoid a Florida-style snafu, that is where Virginia now finds itself, with lawyers fighting over how to interpret one questionable ballot. And at stake is possible control of the Legislature.

I don’t know where the impression was left that somehow we would not have close elections after 2000.  There are some analogies here but not everything is the same.

  • First, there have been many close elections since 2000, with high-profile court cases.  Perhaps the most noted was the Frankin-Coleman Senate contest in Minnesota. Or the close Connecticut House race which went from tie, to single vote win, to tie, ending in a re-vote.
  • In Florida 2000, there was no recount.  That was stopped by the Secretary of the State and the Supreme Court. In Virginia we had a very close race and then a recount that came down to one ballot. It was decided by a legal process and now it is before a court.
  • The hanging chads with thousands of ballots where votes were in question and also the integrity of preservation of the chads as they were handled multiple times.
  • This is one ballot that needs to be interpreted in the face of unintended ambiguity/contradiction in the detailed description of how to count voter intent on ambiguous ballots.


Close elections happen.  Each voter and each vote is critical to the result.  Every error by voters, by officials, by machines, and by fraud can change the result. When it is this close it truly is a crap-shoot, even when one candidate or the other wins by a hand-full of votes.  What is needed is a process that is of high-integrity, every step of the way, followed by a fair, per-established adjudication method.  In our opinion that is exactly what is happening in Virginia. A far cry from 2000 and Gore v Bush.


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