'T ISN'T TRUE, but sterotypical thinking still has it that the District of Columbia and the people it hires to count ballots are permanently incapable of sorting, counting or even spindling the ballots cast by the townspeople. This impression comes not out of the blue, but out of the politically green early days of modified home rule, when obligations of suffrage were still new to the District Building and the municipal abacus was short a bead or two. There were some special problems then, too, such as the ballot box that fell off the truck and . . . well, never mind.

For the record, though, and for all who have had to endure the derision of outlanders for all these years, there was a bit of an election botch elsewhere this week. In Arizona, where Barry Goldwater eked out a victory over Bill Schulz to win a fifth Senate term, reports had it that elections officials blew the count in several ways. Not only did a delay in counting 7,000 absentee ballots slow things enormously, but officials apparently ran short of ballots -- which meant the polls had to be reopened on Wednesday to let some of the people do what they couldn't the day before.

Here at home, meanwhile, a respectable turnout of voters was treated to a generally smooth time of it at the polls, even if privacy still does suffer in those makeshift work spaces, and -- in relatively no time that evening -- the count was completed and announced.That's no special feat, of course, but merely what every election-night operation anywhere should work to do. Still, the District board and its staff members have brought back respectability to the elections process here -- and you can count on it.