November 29, 2004
Gregoire's illegitimate recount

As Seth notes below, John Fund asks in today's WSJ Opinion Journal "Will Democrats steal the Washington governorship?"

Well they're certainly going to try. I heard on KUOW this morning (can't find any report on line) that Gregoire will definitely ask for a hand recount this week.

How should the Republicans respond?

First, it's important to reiterate that Dino Rossi won two statewide counts; even after the Gregoire people won all of their legal and procedural fights to obtain certain unfair advantages; even after they were permitted to hand in questionable (and in some cases illegally cast) ballots; even after a partial hand recount in King County where election officials (aided by haruspices?) were allowed to use their own judgment to somehow "divine" the intent behind hundreds of improperly marked ballots.

Dino Rossi is the Governor-Elect, fair and square. The only reason we might accept the legitimacy of yet another recount is if we are convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that it would be more accurate and not less accurate than either of the first two counts. But there is no reason to believe that a statewide hand recount would not be less accurate then the two previous counts. Indeed, Secretary of State Sam Reed said in last Wednesday's press conference (available online here) that hand recounts are not more accurate and King County elections director also agrees that "the machine count is going to be more accurate than a manual count".

In short, by attempting to overturn the decision of Washington's voters with a less accurate vote count, Christine Gregoire and the Democrats have declared a form of civil war on the people of this state. They are morally equivalent to the corrupt Ukrainian autocrats who have tried to steal the election from its rightful winners in the opposition.

We have to fight back against the Democrats' illegitimate moves to steal the election. The best way that I can think of to do that is to discredit the recount by continually reminding everyone about the inaccuracy, human error, sloppiness and opportunities for fraud that permeate the process. Let's start by looking at "King County's 336 Mystery Ballots" and then wrap up by asking "Who voted, anyway? What are their names?"

King County's 336 Mystery Ballots
While most of the attention last week was on King County's 700+ surgically enhanced haruspex ballots, it is also the case that King County discovered 336 brand new ballots that weren't counted the first time. Richard Pope pointed this out in a comment to an earlier post. I poked through the County's precinct canvass files, posted here.

There are indeed 336 ballots that were not counted during the first count, but somehow showed up in time for the recount -- 198 Absentee ballots, 33 Polling ballots and 105 "Add-on" ballots (provisional and other exceptions). These are in addition to the 717 improperly filled out ballots that were examined by the canvassing board to divine voter intent. 134 of these 336 Mystery Ballots came from Seattle (40%), which is slightly higher than Seattle's share of the County's registered voters and total of votes cast (35-36%).

I called the King County Elections office and asked Superintendent of Elections Bill Huennekens to explain the 336 Mystery Ballots. Apparently there was a batch of 160 or so absentee ballots that "simply didn't show up the first time around". He had no other explanation, other than observing that these things always happen and out of 900,000 ballots [898,238 to be exact] the error rate is very low and proportional to other counties. I pressed him on the 33 newly discovered "Polling" ballots. Shouldn't these have been reconciled with the precinct poll counts? Every voter who shows up at a poll signs in and can be counted. Wouldn't the number of ballots be reconciled against the number of voters at each precinct? They were reconciled during the first count, he explained. Nevertheless, 147 brand new Polling ballots appeared and 114 previously counted Polling ballots disappeared, as if by magic, for a net change of 33 brand new ballots. Likewise, the net new 198 absentee ballots came from 813 newly discovered absentees, less 698 previously existing and reconciled absentees that somehow vanished.

Huennekens said quite honestly that this is a "human process", that "inspectors are fallible and they're human". Fair enough. So increasing the role of the fallible human inspectors, who can make errors in the reconciled ballot counts by the hundreds will only introduce more error into a manual recount that should be rejected before it even begins.

Who voted, anyway? What are their names?
One of the clearest indications I've seen that the Ukrainian election was rigged is this map showing an astonishing increase in voter turnout in the eastern Ukraine, in the regions favoring the old guard. If it was known who these mysterious new voters were, observers could count the number of voters and reconcile whether all of these ballots were attributable to living eligible voters who only voted once.

Likewise, here in WA we would have more confidence in our election if we knew that every counted ballot was cast by a living eligible voter who only voted once. The easy way to do that is to simply post the list of the names of the voters who cast ballots along with their precinct and address. The number of voters per precinct would have to agree with the total number of votes recorded per precinct. Other voters could verify whether everybody who voted is a living eligible voter who lives where they say they live. All of this information is part of the public record. At least in King County, anybody can obtain a copy of the voter registration roll with all of this information. All you need is to pay a nominal fee and sign a pledge to use the information only for appropriate purposes. The question is, when will this voter list be available? It should be available as part of the same deliverable as any certified count and recount.

But it's not. Bill Huennekens explained that updating the voter roll is a lower priority task and won't be completed until sometime after the recount is certified. It's not necessarily his fault, those are the guidelines he's working under. On the other hand, how can the rest of us have much confidence in our election system if we don't even know who voted and whether the number of actual voters is the same as the number of votes cast?

We should not accept any recount ("Count every vote", the Democrats whine) unless we can also verify that every vote counted was also legitimately cast. Without an accurate list of voters, there is no way to do this.

Gregoire declared war by attempting to use a less accurate recount to overturn the results of two more accurate counts. We should fight back not only by unequivocally denouncing the next recount as illegitimate, but by demanding an overall clean-up of the entire electoral process to prevent any similar monkey business in the future.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at November 29, 2004 12:30 PM | Email This
Comments
1. Stefan, your blog posts should also be sent to "letters to the editor" of various puget sound publications to get a wider audience. In my search of an email address on Gregiore's own web page that I could complaints to, I came across this usefull link to write to every editor of a publication in any given county:

http://www.gregoire2004.com/wamap.php?action=media

It would be funny to use Gregoire's own website against her. But try to avoid reading anything else on her site...it will only make you sick.

Posted by: Chris on November 29, 2004 12:54 PM
2. I agree that a third count is not more likely to be more accurate than the first two. I also agree that it may not be politically smart for Gregoire to ask for a second recount. But this constant blather that the Dems are asking for something illegal or that they are stealing the election is just nonsense. The second recount is authorized by statute so how can it be illegal? As to stealing an election, I highly doubt it. This election is under intense scrutiny and I'm sure that the Rs will trot into court at every opportunity to contest what they consider illegal ballots and I'm confident that in the end the election officials and the courts will make the proper decisions. One last thing, I think it is a bit presumptious on the part of many posters to take the "high road" and say that Rossi wouldn't ask for a recount if he were behind by 42 votes. Maybe he wouldn't, but since he's not in that position, I guess we'll never know.

Posted by: steven on November 29, 2004 01:16 PM
3. "I guess we'll never know?"

HUH???

Posted by: South County on November 29, 2004 01:44 PM
4. Stefan,

Excellent summary, this is what I've been trying to get across to Jim King, et. al. the elections are not clean.

With regards to "Who voted, anyway? What are their names?" it occured to me that while it may simply be logistically impossible for Bill Huennekens and team to post this list until after the recount is certified, there might still be room for action if once the list was posted, it was determined that a significant number of names on the list were not actual registered voters?

If nothing else, pointing out the faudulent votes would put a very dark cloud over Gregoire's Governership of Seattle.

Posted by: Jeff B on November 29, 2004 02:05 PM
5. We are not saying that a hand recount is illegal. It clearly is legal. The trouble will come with election workers in a Democrat dominated courthouse interpreting questionable ballots. And what if more ballots are 'found'? How can we be sure they are legitimate? The chances for mischief (and/or error) increase exponentially with a manual recount.

Now, whether there is an equal protection violation problem going on (as in Bush v. Gore), that will have to be decided by the courts. One might also argue that voters in punch card counties aren't afforded an equal level of protection as those in optical scan counties when it comes to re-marking ballots. Perhaps they do...I have little experience with punch card re-marking procedures in this State.

As for what Dino would do were he slightly behind...that may happen yet, so maybe we will find out. Forty two votes isn't much to overcome in a county the size of King.

Posted by: Kevin S on November 29, 2004 02:05 PM
6. A recount is just that, a recount of the ballots that were cast the first time. A recount does not allow for additional ballots to be added to the totals. Therefore, King County's counting of 336 more ballots than were counted the first time is simply inexcusable (and the explanation was pathetic). If the ballot totals do not change, I don't see how Gregoire gains more votes in King County since they essentially already did a hand count by going through and enhancing undervotes and discerning voter intentions before running it through the counting machines. The only way for Gregoire to gain votes would be to have more ballots "found". Once again, a recount is a count of the ballots initially cast. No more ballots should be allowed in.

Posted by: Marc on November 29, 2004 02:22 PM
7. I wish you guys could apply this same level of scruity to Adams and Franklin. Adams as a percent was farther off then King. Or do you just like the results of Adams better?

Posted by: ray on November 29, 2004 03:25 PM
8. ray - there just aren't enough votes in Adams Co. to matter all that much. That's why we focus on King Co. And, for counties like Adams that favored Rossi with a few extra votes, there are counties like Kitsap that gave Gregoire a small boost.

So, as always, it gets down to King Co. That's why we focus our attention there.

Posted by: Kevin S on November 29, 2004 04:16 PM
9. It's the number of votes...and the creativity of the counters.

Posted by: South County on November 29, 2004 08:05 PM
10. Never have I seen a team that WON the game be so intent upon proving that the umpiring was so full of fraud that the outcome is questionable.

I thought it would be Democrats I would be telling "Dino won- get over it"...

Posted by: Jim King on November 29, 2004 09:04 PM
11. Jim King--How directly involved are you with the legal strategizing of what the Dems may do next and what the Republicans potential responses might be?? I'm not asking what you have heard second-hand...I'm asking about your first-hand knowledge??? It's easy to flippantly tell everyone "Dino won--get over it". If that is the case, why are there so many Bush-Cheney and Republican Governor attorneys & staff still here??? I respect that you know a lot about a lot of things Jim...but this ain't one of them. In the end, Rossi will likely prevail. But it wouldn't happen without high-powered legal help and a lot of folks involved at all levels.

What we still must focus on are the 400+ provisional ballot affadavits Mr. Berendt hand-delivered. He is responsible for each & every one of them. Has the posse gone out to independently verify that each one of these affadavit signers is a living, breathing, available human being who will attest that they did indeed sign this affadavit???? Do not lose sight of this. And do not think for a second that this election couldn't change... There is still a lot of legal maneuvering to address (more defense for the R's than offense, unfortunately). Did any of you see the 11/24/04 letter that went to the Secretary of State from the Dems?? Great response too. But it shows to what levels the Dems will stoop to steal this one. Will share more after recount decisions--probably this Friday.

Posted by: Mr. Cynical on November 29, 2004 09:30 PM
12. Quite frankly, what I do know- first hand- I would not post publicly. I would not betray those specific confidences. I am very aware that the attorneys are circling, but I am also very aware that the national Democratic groups seem very reluctant to commit a paltry $700,000 to this crapshoot. They don't see good odds...

But I also know from contacts that the Democrats have found the conservative blogs to be a great source of information that THEY find usable.

Does anyone doubt that Gregoire would walk into court and ask for legal redress because Democrats screwed up the election in King, Franklin, or wherever? Why give her ammo?

Why not concentrate on the transition? There is a load of work to be done there, in short order.

Posted by: Jim King on November 29, 2004 10:57 PM
13. Good comment Mr. Cynical. I love that name, by the way. Good stuff.

If a hand recount occurs, I'd say it's 50/50 whether our next Gov. will be Christine or Dino.

Regarding Mr. King, on one hand his confidence is somewhat inspiring...on the other it really worries me that too many folks on our side are waaay to complacent as to the depths that the D's are willing to stoop.

After all, there is now going to be a recount in Ohio, where Bush won by over 136K votes. The intent here is obviously to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the President's remarkable victory. There can be no other explanation as no honest recount will reverse a 136K margin.

In the case of our Governor race, however, the D's can win either way - either by reversing the current result of a victory by Rossi, or by casting such doubt on it that Rossi will be viewed as illegitimate by half of the voters of this fine State.

Really our only hope is that Gregoire sees the light and calls it all off...but I'm not holding my breath for that one.

Posted by: Kevin S on November 29, 2004 11:02 PM
14. Stefan, do you listen to yourself from time to time?

As a german reader, I have a somewhat limited interest in the outcome of the WA governors election.

But using words like "declare war", "as corrupt as Ukrainians" is really beyond any civil discourse.

I hope the people in Ukraine are wiser and more responsible than you are.


Posted by: Marc on November 30, 2004 09:18 AM
15. Even if the wrong words are used, isn't it better to express an opinion through writing than to take to the streets?

Posted by: george on November 30, 2004 03:58 PM
16. Even if the wrong words are used, isn't it better to express an opinion through writing than to take to the streets?

Posted by: george on November 30, 2004 03:58 PM
17. Words can be as inflammatory as actions on the streets.

Saying the "other side" starts a civil war is certainly more inflammatory than peacefully demonstrating on the streets with slogans like "Count every vote" or "Stop voting fraud". Dont you think?

Posted by: Marc on December 1, 2004 10:33 AM
18. Actually, Marc, I don't think my remarks are nearly as inflammatory as trying to steal an election which has already been won in two separate counts.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on December 1, 2004 10:36 AM
19. Well, everyone has their own experiences. My first experience with taking to the sreets was in the antiwar movement of the sixties, when even well-meant demonstrations became violent, occasionally lethal. Personally I'll take my chances with words every time. You might ask some of the older people in Germany about their experiences with taking to the streets in Germany's past. We can apologize for poorly chosen words; injury or death is another matter.

Posted by: george on December 1, 2004 03:12 PM
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