Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

King County board moves to verify 573 ballots
Republican Party likely to sue to stop process


A divided King County Canvassing Board voted yesterday to allow signature verification on 573 hotly contested absentee ballots that Democrats hope will favor their candidate, Christine Gregoire, in the historically close governor's race.

It's likely to trigger a new round of litigating, this time by Republicans, in the contest between Gregoire, the state attorney general, and Republican Dino Rossi. He defeated her by 261 votes out of 2.8 million cast in the official election returns and 42 votes in a machine recount, and has upped his lead to 121 votes so far in a hand recount.
 Asked if the GOP will seek a court injunction to block verification of the 573 newly discovered ballots in a county that heavily favored Gregoire, state Republican Chairman Chris Vance said last night, "I can't imagine we won't."

On a 2-1 vote in a meeting room packed with political party leaders, elected officials, lawyers and members of the news media, the three-member canvassing board directed election workers to determine whether the voter signatures on the ballots are valid.

If they are, the ballots will be removed from their security envelopes and brought back to the board, probably next week. The panel, which is set to meet again Monday, then will decide whether they should be included in the hand recount, which county election officials expect to complete by Wednesday.

The board put off a decision on what to do with 22 other newly unearthed ballots. They had sat unsecured in the base units of voting machines already put into storage until they were belatedly discovered weeks after the Nov. 2 election. The 20 absentee and two provisional ballots were in pockets where voters are directed to place provisional and absentee ballots.

Diane Tebelius, an attorney for the state Republican Party, said, "I think it's unbelievable" that the canvassing board would even consider counting the 22 mostly recently discovered ballots, given their lack of security protection.

The vote to move ahead with verifying signatures on the other 573 ballots launched the latest round of legal and political rhetoric and maneuvering in the closest governor's race in Washington's, and probably America's, history. The governor's inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 12.

Democrats praised the decision. Dean Logan, county director of records, elections and licensing services, said the 573 ballots weren't counted previously because they had been misfiled and wrongly rejected.
In taking the first step toward allowing the ballots, board members Logan and County Councilman Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, overruled the third member, Dan Satterberg, chief of staff to County Prosecutor Norm Maleng.

Logan, the board chairman, said the absentees weren't counted originally because the voters' signatures weren't scanned into the county's computerized records. Election workers, instead of checking paper files as they should have, wrongly rejected the ballots.

"There is a record that shows these are validly registered voters who did nothing wrong," Logan said, adding that the county should "go out and cure our deficiency" and get the signatures verified.

Satterberg argued for delaying a decision until next week, saying, "The factual basis that has been presented to us today (to justify verification of the signatures) is ... insufficient. ... The appearance to the world that's watching is that you're rushing this through."

Vance and the six Republican minority members of the County Council held separate news conferences before the canvassing board met to urge it either to declare the 573 disputed ballots invalid or to delay a decision on their fate.

Vance also released a letter sent to the board by attorneys for the state Republican Party, calling for an investigation of how those ballots got mishandled, what security measures have protected them since their discovery and a description of the categories of the ballots at issue.

"There is no way of knowing if this is incompetence or corruption" because too little information has come out, Vance declared before the canvassing board met. At that meeting, however, the board and election officials discussed the nature and origin of the mishandled ballots at length.

"Chris is just part of the Republican hysteria machine," said County Council Chairman Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, whose discovery that his own valid absentee ballot had been rejected led to discovery of the others. "I did my duty as a citizen, and (Vance) is going to get out of the way."

State law allows counties to re-canvass ballots and correct errors during a recount in the case of an "apparent discrepancy or an inconsistency in the returns." Logan said a discrepancy clearly occurred, and that the 573 ballots were held to a different standard from other ballots.

So far, election workers have found 245 of those voters' signatures in electronic or paper records and will continue attempting to verify the ballots of registered voters.

State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt called the board's decision "a step in the right direction. I'm pleased the 245 ballots moved forward, and I suspect before it's all over, all of the signatures will be found" in registration records.

If they aren't all found, he added, the county will bear part of the blame, "and the canvassing board should count all of them."

But the GOP's Vance said: "Once they open the (ballot security) envelopes, these ballots look exactly the same as the other 900,000 (King County) ballots. Then there's no way to answer the questions we raised, ... namely, where do these ballots come from, where have they been stored, why were they not counted the first time."

Vance called the canvassing board vote "a party-line vote" since Pelz is a Democrat, Logan's boss, County Executive Ron Sims, is a Democrat, and Satterberg's boss, Maleng, is a Republican.

"I served on King County's canvassing board twice, and I don't ever recall a 2-1 vote, ever," said Vance, a former county councilman.

County Council Republicans urged Phillips, the chairman, to call an "emergency meeting" of the council immediately to examine the problems. He said the council has no authority to step into the canvassing process.

Previous Page

Election Problem Log image
2004 to 2009


Accessibility Issues
Accessibility Issues

Cost Comparisons
Cost Comparisons

Flyers & Handouts

VotersUnite News Exclusives

Search by

Copyright © 2004-2010 VotersUnite!