Fair recounts should be a right

Posted: Sunday, February 06, 2005

Ben Brown's opinion piece in the Empire Feb. 2 proposes a dangerous and undemocratic position. Mr. Brown, who has been a campaign worker for Republican candidates, says the Legislature should raise the amount charged to persons wanting ballot recounts from the current "mere" $10,000 to $50,000 so that "money is not wasted" in needless recounts.

What would the effect of this change be? It would be that fewer candidates could afford recounts, pure and simple. Higher charges for recounts means only the wealthier candidates and their well-off supporters could afford recounts. And who would likely be the beneficiaries of fewer recounts? The candidates of the party that has always had more money behind it, the Republicans.

Let us look at the fundamentals here. Isn't running a fair election a core duty of government? We can outsource a lot a government functions, but should we outsource the duty to ensure fair ballots and fair recounting? Why should making sure that ballots are counted properly be a right that only private persons can invoke, and only private persons with substantial funds?

We long ago abandoned the idea that only the wealthy could vote. That is why the Constitution forbids poll taxes and other devices to give votes only to the wealthy. Why would we even consider making the right to a fair recount depend on wealth?

Until the day comes when every voter has confidence that every ballot is properly counted, every election, we need fair and full recounts. And because voting is a right that should not depend on wealth, we should not have the right to a recount depend on whether you have $50,000 in spare funds. If there is one expense that should belong to the state, it is to provide for a fair recount of our votes.

Douglas K. Mertz


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