GOP alleges 'illegal' votes in governor's race -Democrats dismiss calls for revote -Gregoire: Join me in the middle

06:16 AM PST on Thursday, January 6, 2005

From Staff and Wire Reports

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Republicans argued Wednesday that confusion over some provisional ballots in King County should be enough to invalidate the results in the race for governor.

After the second and final vote recount allowed by law, Democrat Christine Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes and when the state legislature meets in Olympia Monday, it is scheduled to grant Christine Gregoire the certificate of election.

But in just the latest of the strange twists in the battle for the state's top office, King County elections officials acknowledged that an unknown number of voters had inserted provisional ballots into voting machines instead of putting them in secure envelopes so the voter's registration could be confirmed later.

Voters are given provisional ballots for a number of reasons, such as when they vote at a polling place other than their own.

King County Elections worker Joe O'Donnell said he saw as many as 300 provisional ballots that were handled impropertly by elections workers during the vote counting process.

At a press conference called by Republicans Wednesday, one poll worker said he saw as many as 300 mistakes with provisional ballots and dozens of cases where security envelopes came back without the ballot inside.

"We got back provisional ballots that had the words 'ballot went through Accu-Vote machine' written across them. And some of these envelopes had little to no information about the voter," according to King County Elections worker Joe O'Donnell, a Republican.

"The ballot had been counted and the voter's eligibility was still up in the air," he said.

The Rossi campaign could contest the election, asking a judge to throw it out because of fraud or voting irregularities, but has not yet indicated that it would do so.

In the meantime, however, state GOP chairman Chris Vance the problems with the provisional ballots are enough to cast serious doubt on the outcome of the election and reiterated his party's call for a revote.

"When you have hundreds and hundreds of illegal votes being cast in King County, we will never know who won this election. And the only solution under the law is a new election and a revote" he said.

King County is currently attempting to reconcile its records. There are about 3,500 more ballots cast in the election that there are names on the voter rolls. But county officials say the attempt to reconcile the records is routine and was never intended to uncover fraud, but instead ensure voter registration lists are updated and current

On Tuesday, Gregoire said the controversy was being generated solely by Republicans.

"Here's why all this rhetoric is going on," Gregoire said, "the vote changed. I won. And now suddenly there's something wrong. There wasn't something wrong at the end of the machine count when Sen. Dino Rossi was ahead by 42 and these issue were present."

She expected to be sworn in Wednesday and the inaugural ball is next week.

King County Records and Elections Director Dean Logan, responded Wednesday afternoon as well, saying that a difference between the number of votes cast and the number of voters on the rolls does not mean that there was fraud.

Logan said there a number of reason why the number could be different:

They cast a federal write-in ballot because they live overseas or are non-registered military.
There are victims of domestic violence, whose addresses are not public record as part of the state's Address Confidentiality Program.
They were voters on inactive status who cast valid ballots, which will restore their registrations to active status.
They signed the poll book but voted a provisional ballot.
"We believe the statutory protections have worked well in this election. We have not found voter fraud in this election. King County conducted the election and the subsequent recounts in an open, fair and transparent manner and in accordance with state election law," Logan is quoted as saying in a statement released by his office Wednesday afternoon.

Also on Tuesday, radio stations began running ads paid for by the state Republican Party, declaring the governor's election a "certified mess" and urging people to petition the Legislature for a revote.

The ad focuses on a Marine wounded in Fallujah, Tyler Farmer of Everett, who didn't get his ballot until Nov. 3. Republicans have adopted military voters as the poster children for the revote effort, claiming many were wrongly disenfranchised while fighting to defend democracy.

The issue drew about 100 people who held signs and chanted "revote" Tuesday night in the parking lot of Galloping Gertie's, a restaurant popular with soldiers near Fort Lewis.

KING 5's Robert Mak contributed to this story



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