Commentary Magazine


NY-20: No One Ever Gives Up

The counting of absentee ballots in the NY-20 is proceeding. Depending on whose vote count you like, either the Democrat or the Republican is ahead. But these races are preludes to court battles. In this one, the judge is sick for today, but the lawyers argue on.

These contests all have a familiar pattern now. The race is nearly a tie. Both sides begin the game of tossing out the other guy’s ballots for failure to meet the technical requirements of state balloting law. The candidate who’s behind claims all the votes aren’t being counted. The court cases drag on. The result is that voters soon get the idea, perhaps correctly, that the winner is just the fellow with the better lawyers. If not, the judges decide these things based on political affiliation. All of that is bad and erodes confidence in voting. Do we have a better solution? Automatic re-votes, perhaps, but those tend to be expensive and then we will fight over whether the margin is close enough to qualify for the re-vote. Unfortunately, with Bush v. Gore we opened a new chapter in voting, in which election day is simply the predicate for a lawsuit.

There is no substitute for restraint and good sportsmanship. And these days those are considered anachronisms of a by-gone era.