And the winner was...

I missed this. So Christine Gregoire was elected Governor of Washington state after all. I'm glad Iraqi elections aren't run the same way...

Apologies for the appalling lateness of this report. That said, what comes out of the various recount efforts in Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 for presidential elections and Washington 2004 for the gubernatorial election is just how shambolic decentralization is. I shall assume that the result is a fair one in Washington, and that Miss Gregoire was properly elected. But the problem is that if her election was rigged, we couldn't tell.

If you have an election where polling stations open and close at different times and where reports of the likely result can be broadcast before all the polling stations have closed, there has to be an opportunity for vote-rigging. For presidential elections the solution is simple but drastic. No votes at all should be counted until the last postal vote has been received and the last polling booth closed. And that also means no exit polls until then either.

It is also absurd that within the same election different methods can be used for voting ballots. In Washington State, some counties showed virtually no change in the two recounts, others showed over a thousand votes added or lost. With the feeble system in place, I would assume that any political party could rig the ballot, given the flimsiness of the set up. At one point several hundred votes were found in a car park.

As daft attempts to improve turnout go, it is hard to beat on-the-day electoral roll registration (I believe they had this in Ohio). This means that someone can drive around all day crossing election county lines, and register fraudulently in several areas. There is no time to check for fraud and the evidence suggests that election boards don't share information effectively. I would expect that any determined effort to fraudulently register several hundred people in a series of statewide elections would succeed in many U.S. states. (You might not get away with voting a dozen times for Governor, but you've got a good shout a getting several votes in congressional seats.)

Maybe the system is free of fraud. If so only the restraint of the political parties can account for this. In a bad-tempered election, it would take the virtue of angels to resist the temptation to cheat.

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