Everybody in

November 6, 2010 

Even if a recount of votes in the 2nd District congressional race takes place, Republican challenger Renee Ellmers would be the odds-on favorite to maintain a lead and take the seat from incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge. Recounts generally produce few real surprises. And the purpose of them, contrary to what some of Ellmers' tea-party allies might be saying, is not to "steal" an election.

It is, rather, to make sure all the votes are counted and that the winner was not deemed the winner because of some glitch in the process. If this protects anyone, it is the individual voter, not either candidate. The process is respecting the right that individual voters solemnly exercised in the voting booth.

When a margin of victory is small, less than 1 percent of the vote after everything is counted, a candidate has a right and some would say a duty to request a recount. In the case of this race, following a mistake in Sampson County, the reported difference between the two candidates was 1,646 votes, out of 188,000 cast. That meets the requirements.

A recount is not partisan; it is about numbers and only numbers. Republicans who see a "fix" of some kind coming have little to stand on, and frankly their party's earlier, unfounded assertions that electronic voting machines "defaulted" to Democrats don't help their credibility.

Surely Ellmers, who now says she "would be doing the same thing" with such a small margin separating the candidates, can offer calm and constructive advice to those who would question the integrity of the process. This is not a new election, merely a prudent effort to confirm that the old one was right.

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