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Thursday, February 23, 2006
Still no Winner in Costa Rica
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:01 am

Via the BBC: Costa Rica completes vote recount

Costa Rica has completed a manual recount of the votes cast in the election more than two weeks ago - but there is still no official winner.

The recount was ordered after the first count put Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias, less than 0.5% ahead of his left-wing rival, Otton Solis.

New results show Mr Arias with a 1.1% lead. But Mr Solis has filed legal challenges which need to be settled.

Whether we are talking about this case, Florida 2000 or Washington state in 2005, it is clear that there needs to be a rule in place that results in a re-vote if the margin is sufficiently narrow. Ideally there would be a run-off if not one received 50% +1 of the vote, which would almost certainly eliminate this kind of problem. However, even in that situation an especially close vote needs a predetermined, legal mechanism by which to settle the dispute. Going to the courts to figure it out ex post always leads to problems.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | |Send TrackBack

Fruits and Votes linked with Ruoffs, re-votes, and Costa Rica


  1. I think re-votes should be allowed, but not just because a race is very narrow, rather only when there is evidence of irregularity (as in both the US examples you give). Agreed also on the need for a pre-determined rule to determine when there will be a re-vote, as Ukraine had, for example. (There was already such a provision in the electoral law.) But I also think a re-vote is a far better improvisation than other things that can be done, and have been done, to “resolve” such disputes.

    However, I do not agree on the 50%+1 threshold for one-round victory as “ideal”. I would take your criterion for re-voting (”sufficiently narrow”) and apply it to when a top-two runoff (as distinct from a re-vote) should take place. There was no need for a runoff in Haiti, for example, with the top two candidates at near 50% and under 20%, yet there would have been one if not for some creative reinterpretation of the rules after the election.

    I’ve written on the narrowness question of when to trigger a runoff between the top two, using both Costa Rica and Haiti as examples.

    Comment by Matthew — Thursday, February 23, 2006 @ 9:38 am

  2. The notion of “too wide” a margin equaling no run-off is a good one (and I have read your post on the topic and find it to be a very interesting proposal).

    I take your point about narrowness only v. narrowness plus controversy. I am assuming that practically any vote that is extremely close will generate controversy and irregularities.

    In other words, it seems highly unlikely that an extremely narrow vote would not also have come concomitant irregularities.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 23, 2006 @ 9:49 am

  3. Fair point, in that there are always some actions that can be pointed to as irregular in almost any election, and the narrower the “official” margin, the more likely such errors could tip the balance. Still, I think it is desirable to have a set of procedures that define what is an irregularity so great as to trigger a re-vote, and not make such votes automatic in close elections. After all, some elections are just close!

    More importantly, I want to draw a distinction between elections that should be re-run with all the candidates from the original election (or all that choose to re-run) due to irregularities, versus those that require a runoff between the top two (even in the hypothetical totally “clean” election) because there is a good chance that the votes of candidates other than the top two could affect which of those two would win a head-to-head battle.

    Of course, the Ukrainian example was a re-vote of a runoff. And there was no question of abuses sufficient to have affected the result, nor-importantly-was there any legal question of a right to a re-vote if such abuses were determined by the Constitutional Court to have occurred. In other words, Ukraine has better election dispute-resolution than the US has, and it had better procedures even under the kleptocratic post-Soviet Kuchma government-better than the US has today, even after the debacle and wrong-way result of 2000. To our shame and their credit.

    Comment by Matthew — Thursday, February 23, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

  4. Ruoffs, re-votes, and Costa Rica

    The completion of the recount in the Costa Rican presidential election shows the lead for former President Oscar Arias having grown from 0.5% in the preliminary result to 1.1% now. However, the final result has not been declared, as allegations of irr…

    Trackback by Fruits and Votes — Thursday, February 23, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

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