GOP questions vote discrepancies: 8,500 and counting

12:13 PM PST on Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Associated Press
King 5 News


SEATTLE - Republicans laid the groundwork Monday for a potential legal challenge to the governor's election, with attention turning once again to possible voting discrepancies.

"Perhaps there's a logical explanation for all this," said state GOP Chairman Chris Vance, referring to public records that show nearly 8,500 more ballots than voters in five counties. "But if there is not, this election is invalid on its face and the Legislature cannot in good conscience certify Christine Gregoire."

Vance said the voting discrepancies - if they're not accounted for - could form the foundation for a legal challenge to the election of Democrat Christine Gregoire, who beat Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes after a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots.

In the meantime, protesters planned to rally at Fort Lewis Tuesday, calling attention to some 1,000 ballots from Washington residents serving in the military that weren't counted in the November election.

Many of them were from King County.

Gregoire's inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 12. Republicans are pushing for a revote. Democrats say it's unlikely.

"This is a fairly common occurrence - it happens in every election, and in virtually every county," state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said of the vote discrepancies. "There would need to be a very high standard to challenge an election for governor, and the Republicans have not presented that case."

Vance has focused on King County, the Democratic stronghold that made Gregoire the victor in the hand recount after Rossi won two previous counts. The county's list of people who voted in the 2004 election is 3,539 names short of the number of ballots it certified.

Rossi-supporting counties have similar shortfalls. Snohomish County has 1,738 fewer voters on its list than certified votes; Pierce County has 1,640; Clark County has 1,018; and Kitsap County has 484.

Republicans are also checking with the state's other 34 counties to see if there are other discrepancies.

The discrepancy is "definitely, absolutely normal," said Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy. She said the list of names may not include voters who have moved in the two months since the election and whose names have been "cleaned" from the rolls, and it may not include voters who were previously categorized as "inactive."

McCarthy said she understands why people are scrutinizing the election: "There are no questions that shouldn't be asked." King County Elections Director Dean Logan said the difference between ballots and voters is larger than he's comfortable with, but "not alarming."

"Historically, you never get an exact match," Logan said.

Voters not on the list could include military voters from overseas, he said, or people who signed the wrong line of the sign-in book at their polling places.

Logan was in Washington, D.C., on Monday for a federal election reform task force meeting. King County election workers will allow Republican observers to watch as they try to reconcile the voter list, with results expected by the end of the week.

One high-profile Republican, former Gov. Dan Evans, joined the chorus calling for a new election with an online essay published Dec. 31.

"Democracy may be messy, but its principles are why it still serves us best," Evans wrote for the Web site www.revotewa.com.

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"If we screw up the implementation, let's go back to the principles. The voters' will is paramount." He proposed a special election next month. On Monday, Evans said his appetite for a revote depends heavily on how King County answers questions about the 3,500-vote difference between voter rolls and certified ballots.

"A lot depends on what the outcome is of that investigation," Evans said. "If they can explain that and there are no other significant errors, in spite of the fact of a close election, it's time to say 'OK, we'll accept it."'

RELATED STORY:

Uncertainty about election process

07:50 PM PST on Monday, January 3, 2005

By ROBERT MAK / KING 5 News

We are now 62 days past the election and certainly many people feel this governor's race has gone on far too long. But KING 5 polled people statewide not just registered voters, but a sampling of residents across the state.

KING 5 found that there is a lot of uncertainty about the outcome.

Republicans meanwhile continue to lay the groundwork for a possible election contest.

"If there were fraud, this is what it would look like, more votes than there are voters," said Chris Vance, head of the state Republican Party.

Vance says King County still can't explain why there were 3,500 more ballots cast in the November election than there are on a list of registered voters who supposedly participated.

King County Elections workers insist it's not fraud, it just takes several days to reconcile the books.

"There's many reason why the number is different," said Bill Huennekens, King County Elections. "People who voted in the address confidentiality program, federal write-in ballots that we were, that people aren't in the system, so it's coming together with all those numbers and seeing exactly where we're at."

"If the counties cannot figure this out, this election is invalid on its face," said Vance.

Last week, Democrat Christine Gregoire was certified the governor-elect, winning a hand-recount by a 129 votes.

After counting the ballots three times, some voters feel it's over.

"I think Dino Rossi should take it like a man and accept the loss," said one Seattle voter.

But in a new KING 5 statewide poll, we asked:

Should Republican Dino Rossi concede?

36 percent said yes, 53 percent said no.

In the poll conducted by SurveyUSA, the majority still believes Rossi actually won the election.

Six weeks ago, before the hand recount, we asked:

Who do you think won?

66 percent believed it was Rossi.

Now, after a hand recount showing Gregoire ahead, there's about a 10 percent swing in public opinion, but Rossi is still the perceived winner with 56 to 35 percent.

"Who knows who won. It's such a small margin. It could be either of them, couldn't it?" said another voter.

As for the Republicans pushing for a new election, we asked:

Should there be a re-vote?

59 percent of residents statewide say yes, let's vote again, compared to six weeks ago.

Our new poll finds more people not so sure if their vote was accurately counted.

"No, I don't. I hope it did, but I don't know if I'd necessarily have faith in that," said yet another voter.

"I don't have confidence in who won, I'm just glad they decided on somebody," said a fourth.

As it stands right now, Gregoire will be inaugurated next week.

Public opinion may change again and it certainly will be a challenge for her.

Meanwhile, Republicans will be observing all this week as King County tries to identify who cast those 3,500 ballots.


 

 

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