For all the advances in technology that grace our lives in the 21st century, we still are susceptible to that age-old nuisance: the typo.
We've thrown our greatest minds at the problem over the years. We have had spelling and grammar correction for some time. In fact, we've gotten so dependent upon them that a whole generation of people are coming along with considerably less knowledge of the rules of grammar and spelling, depending on their electronics to do the job for them. Usually folks accustomed to the ubiquitous red or green underlining in Word documents are unaware of things like homophones (their, there, they're) which give spelling correction the slip since they are, strictly speaking, not misspelled.
There there is AutoCorrect. This bane of a writer's existence is spawning the laziest bunch of scribes in a century. Which wouldn't be all that bad if it were accurate. AutoCorrect is awesome for Apple products with touch screens. Without it, keying text would be unbearably slow. Folks who migrate from, say, Blackberry (raised QWERTY keyboard) find the iOS products maddening at first. Then we start to trust AutoCorrect. Then AutoCorrect betrays us.
But, in times when it really, really counts, surely we have mechanisms in place to prevent such typo disasters from encroaching on the big things. Things like nuclear launch codes, birth certificates, election results.
In all the hustle and the bustle of the Iowa Republican Caucus last week, it looks like a simple keystroke error may have resulted in the wrong winner being declared.
KKCI News in Des Moines reported that that a vote-counter in Appanoose County claimed that his figures did not match the official vote tally for his voting location. He had jotted down numbers to post to his own Facebook page, noting that Mitt Romney received 2 votes at the 53-person caucus location he attended. Later, he noticed that Romney had been credited with 22 votes. Turns out, the officials agree with him.
National news had noted that Mitt Romney had finished in first place in the Iowa Caucus, followed closely by Rick Santorum. Only a difference of 8 votes separated the two candidates. Rick Santorum ecstatically declared a statistical tie and pointed his second-place finish toward New Hampshire. But, this little typo tells another story.
Everyone involved, including Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are happy to let this one go as a simple, understandable keying error. Nor does anyone, even in the Santorum camp, appear to be pursuing an official tally change. There seems to be little advantage in fighting over the results of this caucus when the New Hampshire Primary is imminent.
But, what this means for posterity is that all those headlines were wrong. Mitt Romney did not finish first in Iowa. There is something psychologically significant about taking First Place, even in - especially in - a close race. Mitt Romney is seen by many as the presumptive GOP nominee. Rick Santorum had been seen as an also-ran until last Tuesday. What if all those headlines had been saying that Santorum BEAT Romney? How might the overall spirit of the week have shifted? How would the speeches and fundraising efforts have changed?
So, we'll move on to New Hampshire. But, I think it has to be asked: If we're not concerned with having an accurate final tally in the Iowa Caucus, why are we concerned with the Iowa Caucus at all?