So ironic: After all the many, many complaints by Washington state Republicans about vote counting in the state - after the super-close 2004 gubernatorial race - that the single most peculiar vote-counting situation the state has seen in years should come in the state's Republican Party caucuses.
It didn't seem peculiar at first, though the results were of high interest: A thin lead swapped back and forth by Arizona Senator (and widely presumed Republican presidential nominee) John McCain, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, with Representative Ron Paul in a respectably close third place. Just as we were all waiting for the last of the results to come in and nail the situation, vote counting stopped, at 87.2%. A super-thin lead of 1.8% by McCain was then in place. State Chair Luke Esser called McCain the winner in Washington. And there matters essentially have stood - incomplete and seemingly inexplicably so.
The 2004 election situation was weird mainly because it was so very close. This one is weird because - well, we're still not even sure why. Maybe there's a good reason, but we've not been able to track one down yet.
Huckabee's campaign has, understandably, been on to the situation, and is lawyering up. From a press release today:
The Huckabee Presidential Campaign will be exploring all available legal options regarding the dubious final results for the state of Washington State Republican precinct caucuses, it was announced today. Campaign Chairman Ed Rollins issued the following statement:
“The Huckabee campaign is deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses. It is very unfortunate that the Washington State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, chose to call the race for John McCain after only 87 percent of the vote was counted. According to CNN, the difference between Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee is a mere 242 votes, out of more than 12,000 votes counted—with another 1500 or so votes, apparently, not counted. That is an outrage.
“In other words, more than one in eight Evergreen State Republicans have been disenfranchised by the actions of their own party. This was an error in judgment by Mr. Esser. It was Mr. Esser’s duty to oversee a fair vote-count process. Washington Republicans know, from bitter experience in the 2004 gubernatorial election, the terrible results that can come from bad ballot-counting.
“Frankly, I am disappointed in the way that Mr. Esser has handled this urgent matter. So I call upon Mr. Esser and his colleagues to cooperate fully with the Huckabee campaign—and all Republicans, everywhere, who care about honest and transparent vote-counting—to make sure that every vote is counted and that all Republicans in Washington have the chance to make their votes count. Attempts by our campaign to contact Mr. Esser have been unsuccessful. Our lawyers will be on the ground in Washington State soon, and we look forward to sitting down with Mr. Esser to evaluate this process, to see why the count took so long, and why the vote-counting was stopped prematurely.
Will this be an issue when the Washington primary - which will select half of the presidential delegates from the state - come around? That may depend on what Esser and other party officials do next.