Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The balance of power in the Montana House rests on the results of the House District 12 race; and that outcome will likely depend on eight voters' provisional ballots. After regular ballots were counted, Rick Jore lead Jane Windham by just one vote. If Jore wins, the Republicans will retain control of the House. If not, there will be a tie, in which case the newly elected Democratic governor can name the House speaker. There were 33 provisional ballots cast, but 25 were from people who are not registered in the county.
This shows not only how important it is for everyone to cast their ballots, but for our elections systems to be accurate down to every last vote in order to ensure that elections are decided fairly. When we use a system that creates hurdles for many folks to vote, or that doesn't ensure that every ballot is recorded and tabulated correctly, or that sows confusion amongst voters as to how and why their ballot will be counted, we undermine the consent that our government must obtain from us in order to maintain its legitimacy.
*UPDATE - November 15, 2004*
With six provisional ballots counted, Rick Jore now leads Jane Windham by two votes. A recount appears likely, although Windham can't request a recount until after November 22, when the statewide results are certified. Adding to the confusion is a claim by two voters that elections officials mistakenly forced them to vote in the 15th House District instead of the 12th, which was the right district.
At stake: control of the Montana House. If Jore wins, Republicans hold a 50-49 advantage, giving them control of the legislative agenda. If Windham wins, the House will be tied 50-50, and the newly elected Democratic Governor will appoint the Chairman of the House, effectively giving the Dems control.
**UPDATE II - December 3, 2004**
The recount has resulted in a tie. Legal challenges and sorting out to follow.
Control of the Montana House remains up in the air.