GOP calls for federal investigation into county election practices 

08:34 PM PDT on Wednesday, April 6, 2005


SEATTLE - Washington State Republicans pounced Wednesday on news that King County had found yet more uncounted ballots from the disputed November 2004 election.

"King County has the worst election administration of any county in the United States of America, a humiliating statement I think," said former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton.

Gorton was reacting to a new internal county report that reveals some in the Elections Division knew months ago that it was short 93 votes.

"And they did nothing to find them, and they told no one and they certified the election anyway," State GOP chairman Chris Vance said.

Vance and Gorton said the news gives them more ammunition in their challenge to the governor's race, more evidence that king county did not do enough to make sure everyone's vote really counted.

County officials have said they have no explanation as to why the ballots went unaccounted for so many months.


Late mailings of absentee ballots and one instance where some ballots were actually lost for a while have shaken trust in the system.

When voters send in absentee ballots, they're put into batches.

In one batch the number of ballots the county actually tabulated was 45 short of the number received.

In another batch, the discrepancy was 30 ballots. Problems with other batches added up to a couple dozen more discrepancies.

"We didn't know about that until March 24th when it was brought to our attention," Elections Division spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said. Egan conceded that although the discrepancies must have been aware to some elections workers, that information was never passed on to Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens.

"Had we known there was a discrepancy we would have dealt with it," she said.

Instead, three election workers have been suspended.

One of those workers, a 17-year-veteran, said officials were "looking for scapegoats ... none of us would ever jeopardize one vote."

Another worker who spent 27 years in the Elections Division, she's "just crushed that my integrity has been shot down. I'm in shock."

Republicans are now calling for a federal investigation, saying the uncounted ballots are suspicious.

Some came from precincts favoring Democrat Christine Gregoire, like Renton and Gregoire's home town of Auburn.

But many of the uncounted ballots came from precincts where Rossi did better, such as precincts in Kenmore, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Kent and Covington.

"But apparently they did nothing to find these ballots that their own paperwork showed them were missing, is it because that they weren't from Seattle?" asked Vance?

Currently, those 93 uncounted ballots sit unopened.

Republicans say they have not decided whether to pursue those ballots to try and get them counted.

King County officials have called in an auditor from another county to investigate what went wrong.

Republicans say it should be a federal investigation, perhaps by the department of justice.


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