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Fat lady sings but Carmouche doesn't yet listen

Democrat candidate Paul Carmouche for Louisiana’s Fourth Congressional District is of a mind to ask for a recount of the results from last Saturday’s contest with Republican Dr. John Fleming, where Fleming came out 356 votes ahead. The way the numbers are, it is the equivalent of coming into the last hole of a golf tournament in second place trailing the clubhouse leader by four shots on a par 5 hole.

At least this is according to national Republican officials, who sent out information Monday about what a recount would entail. Important to note is that the only recounting done is for ballots not counted electronically. Excluded are paper ballots courtesy of early voting procedures by mail, which since they are counted by a scanner typically have a very low error rate. All other ballots are electronically cast and could be recounted only if there is some verified irregularity revealed when they are “opened” tomorrow. (See here for an excellent front-line explanation of what gets counted.)

Therefore, the only place where Carmouche could make up ground would be with provisional ballots – those cast because an election commissioner had reason to believe the voter was registered but for whatever reason was not recorded as being registered to that precinct – and any challengeable spoiled ballots. There are only 36 verified of the former and 171 of the latter (and perhaps an additional 10 potentially spoiled).

But there could be many more provisional ballots in each precinct box containing information from the voting machines. A general rule of thumb from national statistics is that one percent of the total cast end up as provisional, meaning 926 in this case (although Republican operatives estimate there may only be about 200). Further, other rules of thumb indicate that only half of provisional ballots are verified and half of spoiled ballots are reintroduced and declared valid.

If these numbers hold – 463 provisional and 181 spoiled – Carmouche would really have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to win with these. Even if he got 50 percent greater than Fleming on each set (such as a 75/25 split) that’s only 322 votes he makes up. He would have to capture close to 80 percent of the votes (assuming voting machine tallies check and no errors made in tallying already-processed paper ballots which all would have to be non-randomly in his favor) in order to pull ahead.

That seems very improbable given the closeness of the contest. Of course, a higher number of provisional ballots discovered would decrease the margin necessary to win, as would more of them and the spoiled ballots being validated, but these things also would entail a departure from statistical norms, and potentially dramatic ones for a difference to be made. After spending in the neighborhood of $1.5 million to try to take this office, Carmouche can’t be blamed for putting a little more down on a recount, but it looks like it will be just a little more good money after bad for him and an unnecessary taxing of registrar resources and the public’s patience for everybody else.


Anonymous said...

WhileI agree with your premise that any recount efort is likely an execise in futility here, it is his right and a part of any constitutional contest. I am actually somewhat surprised you take such a partisan position on what is, quite frankly, a legal right according to law.

Just to be consistant, what was your position when Woody Jenkins and Suzanne Terrill both challenged Mary Landrieu. The votes were all in and thus according to your logic those "r"'s should have also just walked away into the sunset.

I contend any contest to an election within the law is valid and strengthens the process. In the end Flemming will still win and all questions will be resolved.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask a purely retorical question to the last respondent....when was the last time that a "R" had dead or deceased voters pulled the lever in this great state for them.....seems to me that it is a common understanding that it occurs in Louisiana for one party....or so it's understood.