Unexpectedly Intriguing!
14 June 2005

The 2004 Washington State Governor's Race came to a close just over a week ago when Dino Rossi declared that he would not appeal Judge John Bridges' ruling in the election contest case to the state Supreme Court. In doing so, Rossi recognized that Judge Bridges had set an impossibly high standard in order for him to win his contest: he would have to show how each and every illegally ballot cast in the state of Washington had actually been cast. Given that the secret ballot is essential to successfully making democratic elections work, the judge's standard forever stripped the state's election contest laws of ever offering a candidate an effective remedy for gross misconduct in an election.

In effect, the judge's ruling also trivializes the state's election laws. By failing to attach any real culpability for the mishandling of absentee, provisional and precinct-cast ballots on the part of election workers and the officials to whom they report and allowing their failure to reconcile discrepancies in accordance with state law prior to certifying election results as well as their failure to verify that everyone casting ballots in the election was in fact legally eligible to do so to go without punitive rebuke, Judge Bridges failed the voters by effectively denying them any confidence that elections in the state of Washington will be held to any standard that ensures their legitimacy.

As a result, the basis of deciding close elections in the state of Washington, and especially in King County where the vast majority of voting irregularities occurred, now seems to rest upon what most benefits the majority party in power. This de facto standard of only looking out for "la cosa nostra," or in English, "this thing of ours," may now be seen in the machinations of the party in control in seeking to escape from having to fulfill even the most basic requirements of their official positions as currently prescribed by law.

Despite the impossible standard of proof by which he based his ruling, even Judge Bridges could not ignore the irregularities that characterized the 2004 stage governor's election. The judge made it clear in his ruling that "the voters of this state are in a position to demand of their executive and legislative bodies that remedial measures be instituted immediately." Who among Washington's election officials, and especially those in King County, will heed the judge's admonishments?

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