If we do rock-paper-scissors, I vote for paper

Ipswich made big news last week, because there wasn’t any news.

On Election Night, the race for the Essex Second District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives — a district of which Ipswich is one of 5-1/2 towns — was too close to call.

It was still too close to call the next day, and the day after that. And a week after that.

At one point, election officials were waiting for FWABs. That’s “federal write-in absentee ballots,” the ones cast by Uniformed Service members or their family members, or citizens residing outside the U.S. It seems weird to me that any election could be determined by a FWAB, but that’s the law: GUTI — “get used to it.”

Meanwhile, something called “provisional” ballots were still to be “resolved,” whatever that means, by the RMV — results to be released by today, Wed., Nov. 23rd.

At one point, it was reported that Republican Lenny Mirra was leading Democrat Kristin Kassner by just 4 votes — out of a total 23,488 cast.

(If true, that would be a win by less than 0.017%. Yeah, say it out loud: seventeen one-thousandths of a percentage point. You’ll probably never again need to form those words. Hope your mouth enjoyed it.)

Massachusetts law provides for a recount when the numbers are so close, and I hear a recount is under way. But FairVote.org’s Director of Research reports that a recount has changed the outcome of an election only three times out of nearly 6,300 elections in the past 22 years. Way better to win outright, the first time around, no matter how close the vote was.

So while you wait for the final answer, the tension can be torture — and knowing how hard it is to overturn an election via recount, the regrets can be even more painful. Somewhere in the Essex Second District, there are five Democrats who would have voted for Kassner — and could have put her over the top — but somehow, they didn’t get out to vote.

I have five friends in Ipswich who admit to being Democrats, but who didn’t end Election Day sporting an “I Voted” sticker. So I set out to interview them, in the wake of this historic near-miss, to find out what they might have to say for themselves. Excerpts from the transcripts:

Voter #1: “I meant to vote, sorry. I forgot. If Obama was running, I wouldn’t have forgot.”

Voter #2: “Wait — we didn’t win? Who won? Who was running?”

Voter #3: “I actually went out to vote, but when I got to the Y, a certain individual was going in ahead of me who really did me dirty in high school, class of ’76, and until I get an apology from that certain individual, I refuse to go anyplace that does business with them. The Y included. Saying it’s ‘just a polling place’ is no excuse, if you ask me. They could exclude certain people if they wanted to. They do it in Florida, don’t they?”

Voter #4: “Dang, I’m sorry I didn’t vote. I thought for sure we would win. I figured Lenny made his money in construction for 30 years, did something with his hair, and became a full-time politician. After Trump, who could trust a résumé like that?”

Voter #5: “I’m gonna vote in the recount, for sure.”

Doug Brendel lives in the political outback, on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow his strictly non-political non-profit work at NewThing.net.

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