Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fun with election recounts!

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Everybody loves a good vote recount — the suspense, the intrigue, the opportunity for awkward situations like this one. Tomorrow, Missoula gets to learn the winner, via recount, of its tight race for City Council's Ward Two. As of this morning, Adam Hertz led incumbent Pam Walzer by four votes.

In honor of the big day, we look back at a few of the most notable recounts in history, a little recount humor, and some telling recount statistics. Let the recounting begin!

U.S. President, 2000

Well, duh. A Florida recount held the Bush v. Gore race hostage for 36 agonizing days before finally being settled by the Supreme Court. The agonizing fiasco led to feature films, documentaries and books dissecting every conceivable angle. Aside from elevating Bush to the Oval Office, this election is probably best known for introducing the world to the term "hanging chad." And Katherine Harris.

Minnesota Senate, 2008
Democrat Al Franken wasn't officially sworn into office until more than eight months after Election Day in what is considered one of the closest elections in Senate history. Franken faced off against incumbent Norm Coleman, and actually trailed after the initial count by 215 votes. After a mandatory recount that found scores of ballots wrongly ignored, Franken came out ahead by 225 votes. Legal wrangling kept the thing tied up until June and Franken, a former "SNL" cast member, finally started on the job in July.

U.S. President, 1896
This is notable more for a recount that didn't occur. Due to its size, a California statewide recount is virtually impossible; in fact, it's never happened. In 1896, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes carried California by just 2,798 votes, or less than 2 percent, over Democrat Samuel Tilden. California's six electoral votes were among 20 in dispute. Meanwhile, Tilden, like Gore in 2000, had won the popular vote and secured a 184-165 electoral lead. The race went to a congressional commission and Hayes was awarded the presidency. If California had performed a recount, Hayes may not have won .

Every vote is precious
Here is a list of cliches that tend to pop up during election recounts. We promise not to use any of them.

Not good for Walzer
These statistics cover statewide recounts between 2000 and 2009, but the numbers aren't good for those who trail after the initial count. According to FairVote.org:

Over the 2000-2009 decade, recounts resulted in three reversals out of 11 consequential recounts, or one out of every 961 statewide elections. These reversals took place in the races for U.S. Senate in 2008 in Minnesota, auditor in 2006 in Vermont and governor in 2004 in Washington.

You can read more stats here.

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