Psst, Florida! It doesn’t have to be this difficult

Hey, Florida. Let the Evergreen State show you how a real recount is done.

No over-analysis of dimpled, hanging, swinging-door or pregnant chads here. No way. No tossing out some ballots and adding others. And absolutely no talk of a revote.

Call us wacky Westerners, but we’re applying the novel approach of running the ballots through the machine again and leaving it at that.

Washingtonians can breathe a sigh of relief about the recounts being done here. Secretary of State Ralph Munro and his office have things under control and the recount of our hotly contested Senate race between Sen. Slade Gorton and Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell is running smoothly, said Greg Nordlund, a spokesman for Munro’s office. By Wednesday morning Pierce County already had its numbers in, which gives Nordlund and his co-workers reason to hope that the whole thing will be done by late Friday.

Of course, Washington also has the advantage of not being in the media and worldwide spotlight right now.

"Poor Florida, we really do feel sorry for them," Nordlund said.

He’s got a point. No matter what those people do, it’s going to be scrutinized every little step of the way. But both major parties’ penchant for feigning surprise at election intricacies that aren’t a shock to them at all makes Nordlund chuckle.

While many of us wonder if it will ever end in Florida, we don’t have to worry about that here. In fact, Al Gore would be out of luck if the recount had been here. Washington state law says ballots can only be recounted twice. The current Senate race and the secretary of state race, between Republican Sam Reed and Democrat Don Bonker, are in the first recount. The numbers are likely to stick in favor of Cantwell and Reed, and certification of the election will be completed by Dec. 7, possibly earlier. A candidate could demand a second recount but the candidate would have to pay for it.

For those inclined to complain about the amount of time our recount has taken, Nordlund offers a reasonable explanation. Counties are allowed to "preinspect" ballots, he said. Don’t panic. We’re not talking about Democrats and Republicans holding a ballot up to the light or eating chads. A preinspection means running a hand across the back of a ballot to dislodge any loosely dangling chads.

"If a handswipe can wipe it off, it was surely a vote," Nordlund said.

A second run through the machines might also dislodge those chads which were barely attached, but preinspection usually takes care of that. Those were legitimate votes, too, Nordlund added.

Secretary Munro, a Republican respected by politicians on both sides of the aisle, is about to retire with a strong legacy in this state. His office’s handling of the recounts only reinforces that legacy. After he leaves office, he might want to consider taking a little vacation to our southeastern-most state for a little golf — and to offer a few tips on how to handle recounts.

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