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Count the votes in King County

Editorial    Seattle Times   21 December 2004

One of the most fundamental beliefs of American citizens is that after they cast their ballots, election workers will do everything possible to count the votes.

That did not happen for several hundred voters in King County. Signatures on file were not properly loaded into a computer and election workers did not check signatures in the paper files. This clerical error belongs to election workers and can only be rectified by counting all valid votes. The state Supreme Court has all the appropriate material before it to rule this week that every vote cast in the election, including more than 700 ballots in King County, should be counted if signatures on absentee ballots match signatures on file.

The other alternative is too scary and runs the risk of suppressing votes and vote-counting to achieve a particular result.

County election officials, the Secretary of State's Office and the state Democratic Party believe it is fair to count the votes even though they were not tallied in the original count or the machine recount.

In a recent ruling largely against Democrats, the state Supreme Court said ballots are to be retabulated only if they have been previously counted or tallied, subject to a specific provision of Washington law. That provision says county canvassing boards ought to fix errors if the board finds an apparent discrepancy or inconsistency in the returns.

This safety valve exists to correct exactly the kind of mistakes discovered in King County.

In the rhetorical heat surrounding the governor's race, King County election officials have been made to look like the ogres. But plenty of votes have been added to the tally in other counties.

This page endorsed Republican Dino Rossi for governor. Adding the King County votes to the mix may push his opponent, Democrat Christine Gregoire, over the top.

But the only reasonable conclusion is to count as many votes as possible. Any other approach smacks of manipulating the election and disenfranchising voters who did what they were supposed to do and cast their ballots in good faith.

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