The Epistemological Fog of Elections


A candidate of the Constitution Party (slogan: "God. Family. Republic.") almost won a state House seat in Montana–until the state's Supreme Court decided, after a one-vote victory for Constitution Party man Rick Jore in the first count, and a straight 1,559-1,559 tie with Democrat Jeanne Windham in a recount, to throw out one or more of seven ballots with apparent "overvotes" for both Jore and Republican Jack Cross and give the seat to Windham.

Here's how it played out, from a New York Times account:

At issue in the House race were seven ballots that had ovals filled in for both Mr. Cross and Mr. Jore. Election officials awarded those ballots to Mr. Jore, as did a recount board.

Ms. Windham, a businesswoman, appealed to District Court in Lake County. Judge Kim Christopher upheld the decision of the recount board, arguing that otherwise the race would go to Ms. Windham, for whom none of the disputed ballots were cast.

After Governor Martz broke the tie by appointing Mr. Jore to the seat, Ms. Windham appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, and the seven contested ballots were driven to the court by a state Highway Patrol officer.

In its brief order, the Supreme Court declared "one or more" of the contested ballots invalid, a move that broke the tie in favor of Ms. Windham.

"I'm disappointed," said Mr. Jore, a businessman in Charlo. "I felt the ballots in question were clear." He added, "They obviously intended to vote for me." Mr. Jore said three of the voters whose ballots were in question called him and said they had intended to vote for him.

Just goes to show, when it comes to elections, you never can tell, and every vote counts, or sometimes doesn't.

NEXT: Under Fire

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Overvotes wouldn’t be an issue if we used approval voting.

  2. If you aren’t smart enough to handle a ballot then maybe your vote shouldn’t count.

  3. When you all realize it will be best to do whatever I say we can finish this (misguided) experiment with democracy.

  4. Oh, I should add this:

    So much for the theory that only Democrats are incapable of submitting a valid ballot.

  5. Mr. Jore said three of the voters whose ballots were in question called him and said they had intended to vote for him.

    Ummm….am I missing something here or does this statement imply that Montana does not use a secret ballot?

  6. Kubi-

    It’s possible that somebody made a mark for one candidate, partially erased it (if they’re using pencils for scantron ballots, which is possible), then made a mark for another candidate. The person doing this might have decided (foolishly) to take his or her chances and hope it counts rather than surrendering the spoiled ballot and requesting another one (assuming that MT allows that).

  7. This story really does show that every vote is important.

    After throwing out the tie vote in the race for state representative, and awarding the seat to the Democrat, the Montana House of Representatives is now tied with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats.

    Breaking one tie vote has led to a different tie vote.

  8. Much as I’m unhappy about a victory for the Democrats, this does seem to have been the correct way to handle the situation. A ballot with votes recorded for more than one candidate in a particular race cannot be considered a valid vote in that race. Anyone calling foul on that must necessarily be placing their preferred outcome of the horserace ahead of the rule of law.

    The good news is that it turns out that, but for some incompetent voters, a third-party candidate would have won. The better news is that the major party candidate appears to have won by a single vote…destroying the notion that “one vote never makes a difference”.

    I suspect that a between-one-and-seven-votes defeat might do more to energize the Constitution Party (and possibly other third parties) in Montana and nearby than an actual victory would have.

  9. This is one super duper site4

  10. This is 1 super duper site4

  11. This is 1 super duper site4

  12. This is one super duper site6

  13. This is one super duper site6

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.