Amy Paige makes several good points in her March 3 letter, "Make Hand Recounts Easy." Nothing is more central to the functioning of a democracy than the right to vote and to know that your vote has been counted correctly. The recount is one way to protect the validity of our elections. Some folks, fearing frivolous recounts, want to raise the cost to citizens who might feel a recount is warranted. An increase will put the recount beyond the reach of the voting public. If an increase in the recount fee from $10,000 to $50,000 goes into effect, citizens will have one less avenue available to them to secure fair elections. Raising $10,000 in the short time allotted for the filing of a recount is not an activity that lends itself to frivolity unless the money is being raised by the wealthy.
Several factors came together in the November election nationwide to create doubt in many members of the voting public as to the fairness of the election: memories of the 2000 election, the shift to electronic voting and the concerns surrounding the partisan connections of the three major voting machine providers, the expected closeness of the election, the climate of fear stemming from 9/11, the anomalies in the exit polls, and the polarization of the voting public. With all of these factors converging at one point in time, it is not surprising that large numbers of voters were uneasy with the election results.
What did Alaskans learn from their recount in December? They learned that Alaska election officials know how to run a recount in a manner that is professional, and that safeguards put in place over the years by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor can be depended upon for an accurate vote count. In contrast, the recount in Ohio is still generating court filings and recriminations. If the recount costs equaled $50,000, as reported shortly after the recount was completed, it seems a reasonable price for the state to pay to bolster confidence in our election system. The burden should not fall totally on private citizens because the fairness of the voting process is a bipartisan concern that all citizens share.