01/04/05 — Revote: Holding a new election will be an expensive error

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Revote: Holding a new election will be an expensive error

In a situation in which there was no good choice, the state Board of Elections has made the worst one possible. It has ordered a new statewide election for commissioner of agriculture.

Thus, it threw out more than 3.3 million valid votes. That is the number of North Carolinians who participated in the Nov. 2 election.

Until Wednesday, all of their votes counted and Republican Steve Troxler led the race by 2,287 votes over Democrat Britt Cobb.

But 4,438 votes were lost by electronic voting machines in Carteret County. The elections board had decided to hold another election in Carteret only, but a Superior Court judge overruled that decision.

Because of the closeness of the commissioner of agriculture race, it was mathematically possible that the Carteret votes could have swung the election.

But that was so unlikely as to be preposterous. Carteret leans Republican. The chances are that Troxler would have received more votes than Cobb.

Even if Cobb had tied Troxler in Carteret, Troxler would have won the office by the existing margin. Cobb, to win, would have had to poll 2,287 more votes than Troxler.

Based on the outcome of the other races in Carteret, common sense assures us that Cobb couldn’t have beaten Troxler by that margin.

But there is no room for common sense in politics, and the three Democrats on the five-member state Board of Elections voted to hold the whole statewide election for agriculture commissioner over again — at a cost to local governments of about $3.5 million.

The Board of Elections, when it met Wednesday, could have simply certified Troxler’s victory. That is what it should have done.

Cobb himself should have conceded, but he and his supporters believe he still has a chance to win in a statewide election. If he does, it will be a stolen election, and Cobb will have to live with the fact that a multitude of his constituents will see it that way.

Furthermore, he will have been elected by a tiny percentage of the voters, because it is considered unlikely that more than 10 percent of the voters will turn out for a one-race election in April.

On the other hand, some might go to the polls just to vote against the man who cost the taxpayers millions of dollars by refusing to concede when he was beaten.

Published in Editorials on January 4, 2005 12:07 PM