A Winner in NY-20

After a super-close election, tense days of back-and-forth ballot counts and legal machinations, I'm prepared to declare a winner in the congressional race in ...
by | April 17, 2009

After a super-close election, tense days of back-and-forth ballot counts and legal machinations, I'm prepared to declare a winner in the congressional race in New York's 20th District.  Drum roll, please...

No, I'm not talking about Democrat Scott Murphy, although he does appear increasingly likely to win. I'm talking about the New York State Board of Elections.

The Board of Elections has been doing a bunch of things right:

-They've placed the latest vote totals prominently on their Web site -- it's amazing how often I have to dig for election results or, shockingly, election results aren't online at all.

-Early on, they reported how many absentee ballots were returned in each county, including how many ballots had arrived from overseas and how many of those were military ballots.

-They've been updating the vote totals multiple times of day.

-With those updates, they've been providing lots of detail, including vote totals by county, whether each county has completed various counts (machine recanvass, regular absentee count, overseas absentee count).

-It also appears to me (though I'm less sure on this point) that the Board has done a good job keeping reporters up-to-date on when more votes are likely to be counted.

Why is all of this important? Well, anyone with a spreadsheet and some time to kill has been able to extrapolate how the vote total will turn out. More sophisticated statisticians, such as Nate Silver, could compellingly argue which way the election was headed even when the candidates were only separated by a few dozen votes.

This isn't merely a matter of keeping political nerds happy. Nothing makes people lose faith in the electoral process as much as an election where the result suddenly changes without a clear explanation. When the key data is available, it's less likely we'll be surprised.

Conspiracy theorists will always believe elections are being stolen even when they're not. But, for the rest of us, timely disclosure like this helps put our fears to rest.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.

More from Politics