NY Times Editorial: A Photo Finish in Connecticut

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Sat Nov 18 2006 - 13:47:18 CST


November 18, 2006

A Photo Finish in Connecticut

Platitudes like "every vote matters" became meaningful in
Connecticut's Second Congressional District this week when a recount
showed that Joe Courtney, a Democrat, had defeated the incumbent,
Representative Rob Simmons, a Republican, by a mere 83 votes out of
nearly a quarter-million cast.

The recount, which both sides praised for being both methodical and
transparent, didn't change the original verdict on Nov. 7, which
favored Mr. Courtney. But because the margin of victory was so thin
in the sprawling 65-town district, the day-by-day fluctuations as
each town counted ballots again seemed especially dramatic.

As various human errors were uncovered, Mr. Simmons gained 100 votes
in one town alone. He lost ground when the vote totals in three other
towns changed by more than 30 votes each. A difference of less than
two votes in each town would have changed the result of the election.

Close races are nothing new to the Second District. In 1994, only
four votes separated the totals of two Congressional candidates, with
Sam Gejdenson, the Democratic incumbent, edging out Ed Munster, the
Republican challenger. Recounts and a court decision increased the
lead to 21 votes. It was the second-closest Congressional race in the
20th century.

Next year, Connecticut will get rid of its lever voting machines,
which many towns have used since Prohibition, in favor of
optical-scan machines that will register votes marked on paper

Connecticut's secretary of the state, Susan Bysiewicz, said the new
machines will make voter recounts slower but more accurate. That is
because voter intent is clearer on paper ballots, while the current
machines show only totals and provide no paper record of each vote

But no method of voting will entirely eliminate mistakes as long as
people, and not machines, are in charge of elections.

2006 <http://www.nytco.com/>The New York Times Company

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424

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