Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vote-counting mischief in Washington’s GOP primary?

From The carpetbagger Report

By Saturday night, John McCain had already experienced a pretty rough day. He’d been trounced by Mike Huckabee in the Kansas caucuses, and then learned he’d been beaten handily in Louisiana GOP primary. In Washington state, which was supposed to be a far easier win for the Arizona senator, McCain was trailing Huckabee for part of the night, but with 87% of the precincts reporting, McCain had a narrow lead, which was less than two percentage points.

That’s when it got a little odd. Election watchers kept an eye on the results, waiting for additional precincts to report, and wondering whether McCain’s narrow lead would evaporate. The funny thing was, additional precincts didn’t report. Despite the narrow margin, and with plenty of votes left to go, the state Republican Party stopped counting and declared McCain the winner.

As Josh Marshall noted yesterday:

Now, I think it would be borderline for a media organization to declare one candidate a winner when the margin separating first and second was 1.8% with 13% of the results still uncounted. But for the officials holding the election to declare the result on that basis is simply bizarre. But that’s what they did.

Josh certainly isn’t the only one to find the events unusual. On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Huckabee argued that the Washington state caucuses were “still too close to call.” When Russert responded, “Well, the party has declared it over,” Huckabee said, “They have, but there’s some weird things.”

So, weird, in fact, that the Huckabee campaign is sending in the lawyers.

By yesterday afternoon, the campaign issued a statement insisting that it “will be exploring all available legal options regarding the dubious final results for the state of Washington State Republican precinct caucuses.” It added that the campaign is “deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities,” and argued that the state GOP “disenfranchised” more than one in eight Republican voters in Washington.

Asked for an explanation, state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said he just felt confident that the other 13% of the votes didn’t need to be counted. He told reporters, “Maybe it would have been safer if I hadn’t said anything. But it was an exciting and historic day for the state and I thought if I was confident about what the outcome would be I should share that with the people who had gone out to their caucuses.”

Read the complete article here.

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