From The Seattle Times:
Rossi challenges governor's election
By David Postman
Seattle Times chief political reporter
Republican Dino Rossi filed a sweeping lawsuit today challenging Democrat Christine Gregoire's election as governor.
"It is clear this election is a mess," Rossi said this afternoon as he announced the lawsuit in Bellevue.
Rossi and the state Republican Party say a series of problems in King County, as well as evidence that votes were cast under the names of dead people and felons means a judge should throw out the Nov. 2 election and call for a new one.
"The counties have counted a huge number of invalid and illegal votes," said attorney Harry Korrell.
The suit was filed in Chelan County Superior Court.
Korrell said there is no doubt the case will end up at the state Supreme Court. But he said hearings before a judge are necessary to establish what happened in the election and he did not want to do that in the larger counties where most of the problems have been discovered.
"The election contest is not about trying to prove that anybody is out to steal the election," Rossi said. He does not claim a conspiracy.
But he said there are so many problems through the three counts of the nearly 3 million ballots cast that a new election is the only way to "help cleanse this process."
Asked how she felt about the GOP challenge, Gregoire said "I don't take any of this personally. I respect the rights of others to file an action in court. That's their right. I have to respect that, I'm the attorney general."
Gregoire reiterated that she's seen no proof of election fraud.
"Whatever has been said over the last few days, and every day it's a new issue that's been raised, I have yet to see any proof of any illegality on behalf of the election officials," she said. "They have acted in a consummate professional way."
Problems that have been uncovered in the election, she said "are in fact honest, potential mistakes. They are not fraudulent. They are not illegal."
Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, a key Rossi advisor, said it is not necessary to show fraud, only enough errors that puts the true outcome of the race in doubt.
"The number of votes cast questionably, illegally or mistakenly is vastly in excess of the 129 vote margin by which this election has been certified.," Gorton said.
Gorton said this week he was initially skeptical that a lawsuit could succeed. Votes by dead people and felons likely wouldn't have been enough to unseat Gregoire, he advised Rossi's team.
"Earlier this week when it looked like that was all there was, I said, 'Fine, go ahead, but you don't have an awful lot,'. " Gorton said.
He was much more optimistic after the discovery this week that an unknown number, perhaps hundreds, of provisional ballots were improperly fed into voting machines on Election Day.
Those ballots are given to voters who show up at the wrong polling place or whose registration is in question. They are supposed to be kept separate and secure from other ballots until election workers can determine if the voter is properly registered.
When the ballots were put in the counting machines, it became impossible to separate legitimate ballots from those that should have been disqualified.
The Republican challenge also could include the allegation that King County election workers improperly "enhanced" ballots when the voter intent was not clear, said Republican Party Attorney Peter Schalestock.
Rossi won the initial count after the election by 261 votes. That triggered an automatic machine recount that showed him the winner by 42 votes and he was declared governor-elect.
But a hand recount ordered by the Democratic Party reversed that, and put Gregoire up by 129 votes. She was certified governor-elect and is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday.
The law gives any voter 10 days from that point to file what is called an election contest.
The type of challenge the GOP is planning would essentially put the election on trial, with a judge hearing testimony and taking evidence on allegations of fraud or error that resulted in enough "illegal votes" that the true outcome of the election is unknown.
A judge can throw out the claim, declare Rossi the winner or nullify the election and call for a new one.
Two people got the jump on the official Republican challenge and filed complaints with the Supreme Court.
One was from Dr. Arthur Coday Jr., a Shoreline pediatrician and Republican Party donor who did his own research and drafted his own complaint.
"It was an issue of conscience, to be honest," Coday said.
He was particularly bothered that state law allowed the Democrats to order a hand recount if they came up with the $730,000 or so needed as a deposit to cover the costs if the recount didn't reverse the results.
He said he read the state Constitution, which says elections should be "free and equal."
"Gosh, if private parties can get a recount if they pay and if they can't if they don't, there's something wrong with that. It's not free anymore."
The other complaint was filed by Daniel Stevens of Fall City. He said he filed his complaint Dec. 30, the day Gregoire was certified as governor-elect, and later sent the court the $250 filing fee.
King County Elections Director Dean Logan concedes there were mistakes made with provisional ballots. He said there may be as many as 350 that were improperly put in the vote-counting machine.
But, he said, it would be wrong to "come to a conclusion that those were invalid votes that would have tipped this election."
He said that up to 90 percent of provisional ballots countywide were found to be valid in this year's election, so only a small percentage of the 350 are likely illegitimate votes.
He also said that the county is continuing to reconcile its lists of people who voted Nov. 2 and the number of ballots cast. While there was a difference of about 3,500 in those lists, Logan said that by today it will be down to 1,200 to 1,500.
That, he said, is in line with past elections and what some other counties have seen, and does not present a ripe target for an election challenge.
"That does not clearly indicate that the election would have come out any differently," he said. "There are valid explanations for why there might be a discrepancy."
He will issue a report today detailing the numbers and the reasons for the remaining discrepancy.
An attorney for the Democrats said she doesn't think Republicans will find any strong evidence for an election contest.
"Suspicion is not proof," said Jenny Durkan, a Gregoire confidant representing the state Democratic Party. She is not worried about a judge throwing out the mishandled provisional ballots.
"There is a strong presumption in law that you don't throw out votes just because someone made a clerical mistake," she said. "There's not even a 50-50 chance a court would rule with Republicans to set aside this election."
But this election has seen several unprecedented turns. "That's the only thing that keeps me from saying there's no chance," she said.
From the Seattle Times:
New error found in vote tally
By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter
Oops — never mind.
Three days after King County election officials explained most of a controversial discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and voters known to have voted, the gap has grown again.
After whittling the discrepancy from 3,539 votes to 1,217 last week, officials yesterday said they had made a mistake.
The number of votes now unaccounted for is "somewhere around 1,800," county Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens said yesterday.
It's impossible to come up with a precise number, Huennekens said, because workers are adding and deleting names of registered voters as they update the list in preparation for a Feb. 8 special election.
Huennekens said the numbers released Friday were wrong because the names of 1,003 voters appeared twice on the voter list. Not all of them voted in the November election. Computer experts are trying to figure out why some names were on the list twice.
The state Democratic Party alerted county election officials to the goof shortly after the county gave a "reconciled" list of voters to the political parties and news media Friday, but the county didn't publicly acknowledge the problem until yesterday.
Huennekens said county staffers worked over the weekend to produce an accurate voter list.
The flawed list was an embarrassment the county didn't need at a time when the state Republican Party was already pointing to procedural errors and accounting problems in King County as grounds for holding a new election for governor.
Republicans asked Chelan County Superior Court on Friday to set aside the election results, saying the number of "mystery votes" in King County was larger than Democrat Christine Gregoire's 129-vote lead statewide over Republican Dino Rossi in the manual recount.
Rossi won the initial machine count by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42 votes.
Huennekens said the larger number of unaccounted-for votes should not shake people's confidence in the outcome of an election that he said was still "99.9x" percent accurate.
"When we're talking about as many million pieces of paper as we have to go through in administering an election, that's still pretty good," he said. "Certainly we're aware that we've got to do things better and move forward, and we're committed to doing that."
Huennekens' boss, county Elections Director Dean Logan, said Friday many of the unexplained ballots probably were cast by registered voters who failed to sign in when they went to polling places.
In addition to the approximately 1,800 votes county officials can't account for, Logan said up to 348 voters improperly put provisional ballots into counting machines at polling places before their signatures or eligibility had been verified.
Provisional ballots, which are identical to regular poll ballots, can't be separated from poll ballots after they are inserted into a tabulator. Provisional ballots are used when a voter goes to the wrong polling place or there is a question about his or her eligibility.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance yesterday called the unexplained votes and improperly cast provisional ballots "unconscionable. ... When the election is decided by 129 votes and in King County you've got 2,000 more votes than voters, this election is invalid on its face."
Democratic Party spokeswoman Lisa Cohen said the results of the hand recount were valid and should stand, despite King County's difficulty in accounting for all votes.
"It's been the most closely observed election in our lifetimes, I think. What's very important to realize and keep in context is that King County and the other counties say that their accuracy rate is more than 99.9 percent," Cohen said.
Yesterday was the second time in two days that King County elections officials corrected a factual error. They changed the county's election Web site Sunday to correct the date when absentee ballots were sent to 3,055 military and overseas voters. The county initially reported the ballots were mailed Oct. 10, two days after a deadline negotiated with the federal government.
The online fact sheet now says ballots were mailed Oct. 7.
Logan said Sunday that he discovered the date on the fact sheet originally posted by King County was in error. He said numbers on the report, which he produced himself, were inadvertently changed when converted to code for the Web site.
Staff reporter David Postman contributed to this report.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
From the Seattle Post-Intellignecer:
Dead voted in governor's race
King County investigating 'ghost voter' cases
Friday, January 7, 2005
By PHUONG CAT LE AND MICHELLE NICOLOSI
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS
At least eight people who died well before the November general election were credited with voting in King County, raising new questions about the integrity of the vote total in the narrow governor's race, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer review has found.
The evidence of votes from dead people is the latest example of flaws in an election already rocked by misplaced votes and allegations that there were thousands more votes counted than actual voters.
County officials say they are investigating the cases pointed out by the P-I. "These are not indications of fraud," said Bill Huennekens, King County's elections supervisor. "Fraud is a concerted effort to change an election."
The P-I review found eight people who died weeks before absentee ballots were mailed out, between Oct. 13 and 15, but were credited with voting in King County. Among them was an 81-year-old Seattle woman who died in August but is recorded as having voted at the polls.
The state is required by law to send monthly lists of the deceased to county auditors so they can purge those names from their voter rolls. But those lists are sent only every few months. That means thousands of deceased voters may have been sent absentee ballots.
"If we don't receive a notice that they're dead, then we have no way of taking them off the rolls," said Dean Logan, the county's elections director. Relatives of the deceased can and do cancel some registrations, he said.
Doris McFarland said she voted for her husband, Earl, who died Oct. 7.
"I called up the elections board and said, 'Can I do it because he wanted me to vote?' " the Duvall woman said. "The person ... said, 'Well, who would know?' I said, 'I don't want to do anything that is wrong.' "
Huennekens disputed that election workers would say such a thing.
McFarland said she signed her husband's name and mailed in his ballot, along with her own. She said she had power of attorney for her 92-year-old husband, who was blind.
"If I did something that wasn't right, you can just throw that ballot out," McFarland said last night.
Huennekens said one of the P-I's eight cases involved an administrative error that showed a deceased person as voting and would be corrected. In four cases, the signatures on the ballot matched. Huennekens said officials needed further information or could not track down enough information on the other cases.
Election officials said that if cases merit potential fraud, they would forward them on for prosecution.
King County keeps a voter list as a record of who voted in elections and to establish requirements for levies and bonds, Logan said.
The preliminary voter list shows that Mary Coffey mailed in a ballot. But the 51-year-old Seattle woman died about two weeks before absentee ballots were mailed.
"She couldn't have (voted). She died on Sept. 29," said her husband, Michael Coffey. He added that he voted by mail, but destroyed his wife's ballot when it arrived in the mail.
"I don't see how she could have voted. It doesn't make sense. There has to be some kind of error that happened."
Election officials were still looking into what happened in her case.
Bob Holmgren said yesterday that he voted on behalf of his late wife, Charlette Holmgren, who died Sept. 29. The West Seattle man filled out his own ballot and hers, and signed both of them.
"Her vote was important to her," Holmgren said. "She was very strongly against Governor-elect Gregoire." Election officials said all signatures on absentee ballots were doubled-checked against the signature on record.
"Our system of allowing people to vote absentee and never checking anything is designed for voter convenience at the expense of security," said Chris Vance, chairman of the state Republican Party.
He said the GOP has found cases of dead people casting ballots, and it plans to challenge the race results.
Votes from the 2004 election have been heavily scrutinized . With Democrat Christine Gregoire set to take office on Wednesday, Republicans are searching for ways to contest the election and force a revote.
Kirstin Brost, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said, "We're very satisfied with the results of this election. It's the most closely examined election in our state's history."
James M. Courneya of Auburn died three months before the election. But the King County voter list shows that he voted absentee.
"He couldn't have. He died Aug. 7," said his wife, Anna Courneya, who resides at the same address as her late husband. She said her husband didn't receive a ballot but she did. She voted absentee but the King County voters list doesn't register her vote, only his.
Huennekens said Anna Courneya voted using her husband's ballot, and because she didn't cast a separate one, that ballot was valid.
The state Health Department sends out lists of the deceased "every two to three months," not every month as the law states, said Jennifer Tebaldi, who helps oversee the department's vital statistics operation.
"We have an informal understanding with the counties that we send it when there's a bulk of information to send."
County auditors received lists of the deceased from the state three times last year -- on Jan. 28, May 5 and Nov. 1, a day before the election. Most of the names they received in May were of people who died in 2003, because of a lag of four to six months in collecting and sending data.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said a statewide voter database, expected in 2006, would improve the process.
He said he hasn't seen the problem of dead people voting occur in Washington. Voter fraud is a serious crime that may be punished with up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, he said.
"We do not expect people to sit down and vote a ballot just because it happens to arrive in their homes," Reed said. "Double-checks are in place."
Rosalie B. Simpson, 81, died of a massive heart attack Aug. 4, but voter rolls show she voted at the polls.
If a voter dies after having voted, it's still perfectly legal, Logan said.
Owen Skau of Federal Way made his choices before he died last October, said his wife, Maya.
"He filled it out," she said. "He always voted. ... He filled out his vote before he fell and had a heart attack. But he had it filled out. I went ahead and mailed it in."
Other voting problems may also be raised. Timothy Harris, general counsel for the Building Industry Association of Washington, which is preparing a court challenge of the governor's race, said his group has documented about 50 felons who did not have their voting rights restored but voted in Pierce County.
P-I investigative reporter Phuong Cat Le can be reached at 206-448-8390 or firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Sound Politics Blog:
December 29, 2004
FLASH: King County Numbers Don't Add Up
King County is still unable to provide conclusive information to validate their vote count.
The voter file, which I obtained earlier today, contains the names of only 895,660 voters recorded as voting on Nov. 2, a significant discrepancy from its hand recount certified total of 899,199.
The Elections Office informed me that they're still doing "quality control" and adding in the names of some of the absentee voters. Even that wouldn't explain the entire discrepancy, as there appear to be discrepancies with the polling place and provisional vote counts as well. I've asked the Elections Office for further clarification and will convey their explanation as soon as I recieve one.
UPDATE (January 3): [The latest damning revelations on King County Elections phoney-baloney "Enron Math" is here. The remainder of this post is already out of date.]
Also, they have not yet released the full precinct canvass for the manual recount, as they did for the first count and the machine recount.
Sec. of State Sam Reed is scheduled to certify the election tomorrow. I called his office and asked him to postpone certification until King County (indeed every county) can provide a list of voters that reconciles with the list of ballots tallied. His spokesperson explained that he is required by law to certify the election tomorrow and that it is only after certification that the election could be contested. I don't know enough law to dispute this, so I'll accept that as correct unless someone can argue otherwise.
The certification is a largely ceremonial and a way to bless the results. I strongly urge Secretary Reed to refrain from giving his blessing of confidence in the results. I call on him to instead use the opportunity to question the validity of what he is required by law to certify and to call for a new election.
I encourage everybody who reads this to contact Secretary Reed's office and to ask him to express his doubts about the results of this election and to call for a new election. 360-902-4151. Be courteous.
Also, call the Gregoire campaign and ask Christine Gregoire to face reality and recognize this is a tainted election with no ascertainable winner. Ask her to join most Washingtonians in demanding that this election be set aside and to have a new election. (206) 328-2969 Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at December 29, 2004 01:46 PMCategories: 2004 Governor's Race