Not As Simple As 1, 2, 3

According to the King of Pop, counting 1, 2, 3 is easy. Maybe so for Michael Jackson, but the election supervisors in Florida are having a devil of a time counting. While they might be able to count 1, 2, 3 on their figures, counting the number of ballots cast in the Sunshine State is way more difficult. Like it or not, millions of ballots are having to be counted AGAIN because of a recount ordered by the Florida Secretary of State, Ken Detzner..

I feel that it is my civic duty to blog about this situation to make sure that my fellow citizens are informed about what’s going on in their government. I fear that they might’ve missed the newspaper articles on this hot topic because they are making beelines to the Christmas sales ads delivered along with their paper. You know, the ads that are about as thick as the substantive part of the paper which tout the need to buy NOW for Christmas. Hey, there are only 39 shopping days left, so get it in gear! [NOTE: I may not have been asked to count ballots, but I sure can count days on the calendar.]

While the general election took place on November 6th, the fat lady has not yet sung for three races in Florida–governor, U.S. Senator, and Agriculture Commissioner. These races were so close (the losing candidate lost by half a percentage point or less) that a recount of the ballots cast is required by Florida law. [That’s F.S. Section 102.141(7) for those who enjoy statutory numbers.] Each loser undoubtedly feels that his loss was the direct result of ballots not being counted correctly. I mean why else would he lose?

So, how are ballots counted for the recount? By a machine. You can’t trust machines, can you? They may be biased or at least not programmed correctly. As Florida law has recognized and mandated, the best way to see if there was an accurate count is to have machines conduct a recount of the original count made by machines. Am I the only one seeing a flaw in this logic here?

This recount must be done under a time deadline. The results have to be submitted to Tallahassee by this afternoon. Should we be concerned about the poor machines being tasked with recounting under such pressure with a time deadline? Will they suffer from performance anxiety as a result and flub the recount? Will a recount of a recount called for?

But the machine recount may not end the inquiry. If after the recount a candidate has lost by a one quarter of a percentage point or less, a manual recount is required. Manual means, of course, that the ballots have to be counted by hand. The workers won’t be able to count on their hands, though, because way more than ten ballots were cast in all the races. Millions of ballot would have to be recounted before a Sunday, 11/18, deadline for completion. Hope those election workers didn’t have any grandiose weekend plans. Even if these workers didn’t have big plans, they may not get to count many sheep because they’ll be too busy counting ballots to sleep.

And do we trust humans to count more accurately than machines? Will those counting have been vetted to make sure that they only made A’s in math while in school? What happens if the counter gets to 1,459,856 ballots and then loses count? Must he/she start all over? Does it matter what political party the counter is affiliated with? Should we have two counters–one Republican and one Democratic? The questions about this process are, well, too numerous to count.

At least Florida has recounting experience. Way back in 2000 a statewide recount occurred following the presidential election pitting George W. Bush against Al Gore. Bush ended up the winner, but I have no idea the number of votes he got. Actually, I was too fascinated with the concept of a chad, hanging or otherwise, to be concerned with the actual margin of votes between the two candidates.

When the recount process is completed, victors will be declared and political life will go on as usual, right? Ha! I wish. The situation will be analyzed and talked to death by political commentators. Lawsuits will be threatened and perhaps filed. The average citizen will merely shrug and remark, “All I want for Christmas is to quit hearing about the election.” Even after official results are announced, the controversy will continue ad nauseum. You can count on it!

Just WONDER-ing: Do you expect a recount to change the outcome of any of the close races? Do you trust a count done by hand more than a count done by a machine? Were you surprised by just how close the three races being recounted were?






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