Recount New Hampshire
Briggs is the first to admit that mathematics is a tricky game. "New Hampshire might just be odd--this trend could really be happening," she said. "It's unlikely, but it could be." If, indeed, the numbers are wrong, it doesn't mean deliberate tampering. It could be a programming error, which would be consistent with the fact that the unexpected results affected only the first race on the ballot. In any case, that's what recounts are for.
Once Briggs's eyebrows were raised, she said, she tried contacting the Kerry campaign to see if officials there would call for a recount. With no affirmative response, on Friday, November 5, she called Ralph Nader--with less than four hours remaining before New Hampshire's deadline for recount requests. The Nader people didn't know Briggs, and were wary, but Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes managed to mobilize enough listeners that Nader soon had a twelve-inch stack of imploring faxes. With one minute remaining to deadline, he faxed in a request for a recount. (He also agreed to pay a $2,000 filing fee plus actual costs.)
On Thursday, New Hampshire officials will begin a hand recount of paper ballots in five of eleven large urban precincts--in Manchester and Litchfield--where Bush did surprisingly well. The remaining precincts will be counted soon. If the results prove interesting, recounts could be requested elsewhere besides Ohio, where such a request has already been made by Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik.
Even a hand recount won't satisfy everyone--and shouldn't. The efficacy of the American voting system is dependent on a lot of things going right--and anecdotal evidence suggests many fruitful avenues of inquiry into things that may have gone wrong. Among these: whether ballots were improperly cast (fraud), and whether legitimate voters were prevented or discouraged from voting. To say nothing of whether, in a country where many people vote based on the most effective television commercials, people really understand what they are voting on and the stakes involved.
Kerry beat Bush in New Hampshire by 340,511 to 331,237 votes, a spread of 50 percent to 49 percent, with Nader taking less than 1 percent. A recount, even if it does establish problems, likely won't change the winner in New Hampshire, and even if it does it will certainly not alter the outcome of the presidential race.
However, if it does show significant inaccuracies generated by the AccuVote equipment and software, it could trigger recounts elsewhere--recounts that could, theoretically, reverse the election.
That's highly unlikely, given Bush's hefty wins in key states, and given the prominent role of other voting technologies. But hand recounts of optically scanned ballots will go a long way toward addressing doubts about that technology and about the vendor. And it will perhaps give others the confidence to request recounts when results go against statistical trends, or common wisdom. At minimum, it will be a start on the road to transparency and accountability.
If it turns out that anomalies are just that, so be it. Then we need to spend more time understanding why people voted--really, truly voted--the way they did.