Unexpectedly Intriguing!
December 30, 2004

From the Captain's Quarters this morning, comes word that there is a state-wide election that will be redone in North Carolina, following reports of some 4,438 uncounted ballots turning up post-election in a malfunctioning electronic voting machine in Carteret County. The election in question pitts Republican Steve Troxler against incumbent Democrat Britt Cobb in the race to be the next North Carolina Agricultural Commissioner.

With these details out of the way, let's compare this race to the Governor's race in Washington. First, we'll take the most recent election tally from the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer, and plug them into my Simple Majority Calculator, along with the uncounted ballots, which I've placed in the "other" category:

Raw Vote Data
Input Data Values
Votes Counted for the Republican Steve Troxler
Votes Counted for the Democrat Britt Cobb
Uncounted Absentee Ballots
Uncounted Provisional Ballots
Other Uncounted Ballots

Votes and Percentage Breakdowns
Calculated Results Values
Total Vote Count
Votes Needed to Win a Simple Majority
Percentage of Uncounted Votes Needed for Steve Troxler to Win
Percentage of Uncounted Votes Needed for Britt Cobb to Win

Assuming you've hit the "Calculate" button (and how could you not?!), you've found that the Democratic candidate in this race has a nearly insurmountable chance of being able to turn defeat into victory (also given that Carteret County split nearly 60-40 in favor of the Republican candidate). But, the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is split 3-2 in favor of the Democrats has opted for a different strategy than that taken in Washington state. Rather than adding the uncounted ballots to the already counted totals, as was done for Democrat-dominated King County in Washington, the North Carolina Board has instead chosen to re-run the election for the agricultural commissioner post state-wide (and not just in the affected county.) The only apparent rationale, by my observation, is that the incumbent Democrat would stand a better chance of winning the race, particularly since it has been estimated that an election-day turnout of just 10% could be expected for the special election for this relatively minor state-wide office.

The bottom line in the (WARNING: Gratuituous Self-Plug Alert) political calculations here, is that the different strategies here in North Carolina and across the country in Washington's governor's race have been taken for the apparent sole purpose of benefitting the standing of the Democratic candidate. As such, the predictable outcome is that when state election boards are skewed toward one party, and whose decisions are not held to tight legal standards, election related rulings will skew in favor of the dominant party of the election board.

Update: The last two paragraphs have been edited for greater clarity.

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