Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Recount in Montana OPI race should go forward

It is good to see that Sandy Welch has decided to go for a recount. She has chosen an interesting approach, however:

Welch could have automatically forced a recount Monday by making a formal request to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, the state’s chief election officer.

Instead, she chose to take the issue before a judge, who must find probable cause that an erroneous count occurred on Nov. 6, before ordering the recount.

If the judge orders a recount, election officials in each of Montana’s 56 counties will conduct a hand count of all ballots, which are being held at county election offices.

A recount involving a difference of 2000-odd votes is a long shot. My guess would be that a recount will close the gap, but probably not enough to win, barring a smoking gun somewhere with significant irregularities. Welch's lawyers cite numerous anomalies in their brief -- whether they are numerous enough to change the ultimate result can't be known unless the recount goes forward.

There are a number of advantages to seeking a court order for a recount. First, it would bolster the recount politically -- if a judge has ordered it, it has more legitimacy that a mere voluntary request would have. Secondly, there will presumably be some court oversight to how the recount is to proceed, as well as legal recourse in disputes over individual ballot challenges where the Welch campaign disagrees with local election officials on their decisions.

From my perspective, I'm glad that Welch is making this challenge, if only on a purely political basis. The OPI race is one that gets less attention than any other statewide land board race. As I have noted before, because of the power of the teachers' unions, Democratic candidates for this office come in with a big advantage.

As stated above, this recount is a long shot, but it should draw attention to the fact that this year, Republicans had an outstanding candidate who nearly unseated an incumbent Democrat. Four years from now, when (we hope), Welch borrows from the Tim Fox playbook and runs it back against another opponent (Juneau will be term-limited), not only will she have the wealth of experience that she gained in running this year, she will have even more name recognition. Her fundraising base will expand because attention drawn to the extreme closeness of this race will have proven that she has the ability to win, given adequate resources.

And if, in the process of the recount, it so happens that significant anomalies are uncovered in heavily Democratic precincts, that will just be a bonus -- and not just because it might lead to a Welch victory.

It never hurts to shine the light in dark corners -- you never know what you will find. And you'll certainly never know if you don't look.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Considering that there were anomalies in at least one state Senate race (the results of the 3 precincts were flipped in the race for SD 9) and it was confirmed to be a computer error from the Clerk and Recorder's office, I am glad that Sandy is going for a recount.