OpinionMeister

Friday, January 28, 2005

Washington's Governors Election

The editors of The National Review have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a new election is needed if we are to know who truly won the governor's election in Washington state. Link.
We have generally decried the recent trend toward attempts to settle elections after the fact in the courts. But the voting controversy in Washington State is a special case. As Byron York reports elsewhere in [the Feb. 14 issue of NR], it is impossible to know who truly won the Washington gubernatorial race between Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire. Gregoire has just taken office, having overtaken Rossi in a second recount. Her winning margin: 129 votes out of 2.8 million votes cast. Rossi had won the initial post-election-day count by 261 votes, and the first machine recount by 42 votes. Throughout the process, Gregoire has been helped by the ability of heavily Democratic King County (home to Seattle) to produce new batches of uncounted votes, including 573 supposedly mistakenly disqualified ballots that gave Gregoire her winning margin.(...)

He is right. The painstaking precinct-by-precinct analysis of blogger Stefan Sharkansky at soundpolitics.com shows that in King County alone, there are 3,700 unaccounted-for ballots or voters. Some precincts have more ballots than voters, for a total of 2,900 "extra" ballots. Other precincts have more voters than ballots, for a total of 800 "extra" voters. These mystery voter-less ballots and ballot-less votes obviously are enough in themselves to put Gregoire's 129-vote margin in serious doubt.

Other irregularities abound. The Seattle Times has reported that 129 felons voted in King and Pierce counties. At least 348 provisional ballots — which are supposed to be closely inspected to see if they are legitimate — were directly fed into machines and counted in King County. Some 55,000 optical-scan ballots (ballots on which the voter marks a bubble) in King County were "enhanced" so that the voters' supposed intent could be determined, with no uniform standard governing the process. Roughly 500 voters used the address of the King County Administration building as their home address.

There is no question that the number of erroneous, disputed or downright illegal votes far exceeds the margin of victory. Rossi won the original count and the machine recount. It was only the second, hand recount that declared Gregoire the winner. By its very nature, a hand recount is subject to significant human error and is not, and probably cannot be as accurate as a machine recount. Add to that the question of new ballots continuing to be "found" in heavily-Democratic King County (Seattle), and the possibility of intentional fraud cannot be excluded.

I would add one further conclusion to those of the editors. I believe there is sufficient suspicion of fraud by election officials, which is a federal civil rights violation, for the FBI to be sent in to investigate. Maybe it was just incredible incompetence, but I would prefer if all of those involved had to testify before federal officials under oath, before a conclusion is reached.

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