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King County finds new error in vote tally
1/11/2005, 12:37 p.m. PT
The Associated Press    

SEATTLE (AP) ? A discrepancy between the number of ballots cast in King County last November and those credited with voting has grown from about 1,200 to about 1,800, elections officials said.

The gap widened after it was discovered that the names of some people appeared twice on a list of voters, Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens said.

Election officials say it's normal for the number of ballots cast in an election to be greater than the number of people credited with voting. Among other reasons, some voters forget to sign in when they cast their ballots, and under federal rules, some military ballots can be cast by voters not necessarily registered in the county.

But the discrepancy has taken on new significance given the ultra-close governor's race, in which Democrat Christine Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes after two recounts.

Initially, King County's records showed 3,539 more ballots cast than people credited with voting. Elections officials worked to reconcile that number and announced last Friday they had accounted for all but 1,217 of the votes.

In reviewing the reconciled list, however, state Democratic Party officials noticed a mistake: The names of many voters appeared twice.

Huennekens acknowledged the mistake Monday and said computer experts are trying to figure out what happened.

He put the discrepancy at about 1,800 more ballots cast than voters known to have voted, but said it will be impossible to come up with a precise number because workers have been adding and deleting names of registered voters in preparation for a Feb. 8 special election.

In addition to the approximately 1,800 votes county officials can't account for, King County Elections Director Dean Logan said up to 348 voters improperly put provisional ballots into counting machines at polling places before their signatures or eligibility had been verified.

State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance called the unexplained votes and miscast 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."

Huennekens said the news should not call the election into question and that the results were still "99.9x" percent accurate.

"The process of crediting voters is a post-election administrative process that has no bearing on the authenticity of the election results," county Elections Director Dean Logan said last week.

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