A little overtime before Christmas

Latest from the Washington State governor election saga.

The hand recount order has been signed and sealed. The political parties are now trying to find volunteers to hang around for up to two weeks staring at piles of paper to a) deter the other side from voiding any of our votes and b) trying to spot void votes allocated to the other side. Details here.

Having done this sort of thing myself I can honestly say that I defy anyone to keep their mind on it for more than two hours, never mind ten days, knowing that the gap of 42 votes is 0.0015% of the total cast. Normally a scrutineer can comfort him or herself with the thought that a single error probably won't make a difference. In my experience we would watch the votes being counted for a couple of minutes, concentrating on small batches to watch for any discrepencies (votes for our candidate in the wrong pile, a stack that should have 50 votes with 51 instead). Added to the fun we can't touch the ballot papers in the UK, but have to attract the attention of the returning officer or a deputy to come over and check our query.

Having worked in banks with note counting machines, and hand counted £35,000 in small bills once, I would be amazed if a hand count failed to reveal more than 42 errors out of 2.8 million. Counting machines are built for speed. Ideally I would use them to double check a hand count. At a guess, the recount and the machines will have done a great job if fewer than 250 votes change hands across the state. Of course many of these errors would cancel each other out: there's no reason to suppose that Rossi votes stick together more than Gregoire's do.

Because the Libertarians may not have a full complement of volunteers for this hand recount, expect some of their votes to be challenged...

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