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Abstract

This Article examines the problems revealed in Washington State's election system as a result of its staggeringly close gubernatorial election, and compares such problems to those encountered by other states in the 2004 election. It examines the challenge of fixing these problems through the prism of the ongoing debate over what values and goals are most important when making election administration decisions. The various values and goals of expanding voter access, increasing voter participation and election efficiency, preventing voter fraud, ensuring the count of every vote, and creating finality in the voting system are included in this examination. Throughout this article, it is argued that those who claim choices must be made among these values are often trying to force a false choice, and that where a genuine choice must be made, the right to vote and to have that vote counted ought to be paramount to the extent that the administrative process can bear. Under such a standard, the right choice to make is usually very evident. Part II provides background information on the development of election reform law and election policy since the 2000 presidential election. Most important are the provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which provided the framework for both the election improvements of 2004 and the new difficulties that occurred in 2004. Part III provides a national overview of current election reform, focusing in particular on the effect of HAVA's requirements during the 2004 election on issues of (1) voter registration, (2) statewide voter registration databases, (3) voter identification, (4) provisional ballots, and (5) voting machines. It also discusses the issues of (6) felon disenfranchisement, and (7) voter intimidation and suppression through statutory challenges and other means. Part IV compares and contrasts the problems encountered by Washington election officials and voters with the problems encountered in other states on the issues of (1) felon disenfranchisement, (2) voter identification, (3) absentee ballots, (4) provisional ballots, and (5) voting machines. By comparing Washington's experience to the experience of other states, it becomes evident that forcing a choice between administrative values on some of these issues creates a false dilemma, and that on other issues the balancing of values should fall heavily on the side of the right to vote and have one's vote counted. Finally, Part V concludes with a summary of how these problems, disagreements, and proposed solutions reflect a larger philosophical and political debate over the competing values in election administration.