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Keep eye on the goal


The Washington Supreme Court convenes today to consider the King County recount case. The resulting ruling may well be a rather cut and dried pronouncement that Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend should not have read into the high court's decision last week any prohibition on county canvassing boards reconsidering erroneously rejected ballots.

If, however, the justices presume to take on the broader decision of which ballots should be counted, we trust they'll keep their eyes on this or any other election's paramount goal.

For Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance, the goal is to elect Dino Rossi.

For Paul Berendt, his Democratic Party counterpart, the goal is to elect Christine Gregoire.

Ignore those goals. As sincere as those men may be in the pursuit of their goals, they are partisan, irrelevant things.

The goal is to as accurately as possible determine the will of the governed, as represented by the ballots cast by the voters. Even in pursuit of that goal, some ballots must be excluded: ballots of those voters who failed to sign them or get them in on time, voted twice or were blatantly incorrect in marking their ballots or failed to make their intent clear.

The ballots of those voters who cast them correctly and on time but were not tallied because of elections officials' errors must be counted now.

There is no sustainable argument for disenfranchising these voters.

In at least five Washington counties, legitimate ballots not counted in the original tally were added to the recount. Why, then, disenfranchise King County voters? To keep Gregoire from winning? That may be good enough for Vance, but it shouldn't be good enough for the court.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, has doggedly advanced the election's ultimate goal, insisting on fairness, non-partisanship and accuracy throughout this frenetic plebiscite. The King County Canvassing Board served the goal by voting to include in the recount any legitimate ballots found among the 723 disputed ones, before the Pierce County judge stepped in the way.

It's now up to the Supreme Court to clear the way again.

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