December 21, 2004
For Years, The King County Elections Office Has Routinely Violated State Law
Lornet Turnbull and David Postman get the
biggest scoop yet
in King County's increasingly bizarre election story.
King County election workers were told as early as May that if an absentee ballot came in without a
matching signature on file they were required to make a concerted effort to verify that the vote was
Before a special election in May, King County election workers routinely violated state law by
counting such ballots without making any attempt to verify the signatures.
But I am not sure Turnbull and Postman realize the implications of their scoop, because they turn
immediately from their discovery to how it led to the 735 disputed ballots that King County "found"
after the official count. And from that they go to a routine discussion of the re-recount
of the governor's race.
It is natural for reporters to look forward, but, in doing so, Turnbull and Postman missed something
big. If the King County elections office was routinely counting votes for which they had no
signatures, they must have been, for years, counting illegal votes. The reporters do not say
how long the office had been failing to check signatures, but I think it fair to guess, given the
many problems at the office, that they have been violating state law for some time. If
so, EVERY CLOSE ELECTION IN KING COUNTY AND WASHINGTON STATE IN RECENT YEARS IS SUSPECT.
And maybe for many more years. We won't know how long King County has been violating state
law until there is an investigation, preferably one with subpoena power. Elections won
narrowly by Democrats are especially suspect, since King County is predominately Democratic.
Suspect elections would include the 2000 Gorton-Cantwell Senate race, the 2002 win for the Seattle
monorail, and probably a number of state legislative races. (At the beginning of next year,
I'll be looking for legislative races where the failure to check these signatures may have made
a difference. If you have any tips for races to look at, let me know.)
We know from an
in the Seattle Times, which I discussed here, that
many absentee ballots do have invalid signatures. This year King County disqualified
2828 ballots for that very reason — and I hope you will understand if I say that I suspect
that they could have disqualified many more.
So far, the reaction to this revelation of law breaking by election officials has been muted.
I did not see a follow up story in the Seattle Times this morning, and neither the Times nor the Seattle
PI has an editorial on this remarkable story. I haven't seen anyone call for the officials
who were breaking the law to be prosecuted, dismissed, reprimanded, or even given a cold cup of
coffee. As far as I know, King County executive Ron Sims has said nothing about this
systematic violation of state law by his employees.
I plan to work to change that reaction, so this violation of state law by public employees gets the
attention it deserves. I hope those of you who live in this state will join me in that effort.
And I think we should consider fairly extreme measures; for example, if the law allows it, we
should consider beginning a recall campaign for Ron Sims, if he does not
make an effort to investigate and discipline those responsible. I doubt very much that
such a recall would succeed, but I think it might get his attention.
Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.
Posted by Jim Miller at December 21, 2004
07:59 AM | Email This
1. I am still hoping that someone will address the double standard with Republican Counties. The Seattle Times is reporting that Grant County which favored Rossi by 69%, added 52 "found" ballots in the manual recount without consulting their canvassing board, and without keeping them separate after they were counted. This mistake cannot now be undone! 52 votes in Grant County constitute a larger percentage of the Grant County total (0.002%), than does 735 votes in King County (0.0004%). However, I do not hear Conservative Grant County getting mocked and berated or accused of criminal activity. All of the votes should be treated the same. It is ridiculous to claim the moral high ground when you are not pointing out similar behavior in Conservative Counties.
2. See my comment on "Chernobyl", below.
Let's begin. Sims, Logan, I'll be happy to start gathering signatures.
Let's hold our Government accountable.
4. "King county election office routinely violated state law." You're right. This makes the close elections suspect including the Cantwell-Groton senate race.
Christine Gregoire as attorney general should be investigating this violation of state law. The fact that she lets government officials routinely get away with violating state law shows she is not living up to her oath of office. She ignores law violations if it helps the Democrats.
The reason no one is looking into violations in so-called Republican counties is that they would then have to also look into the larger, Democrat controlled counties. And people like current Attorney General Xine Gregoire know what they will find there, and that's a place they don't want to go. So please be careful with accusations of hypocracy and double standards until you understand the implications of what you are calling for.
Clean up Cook County, and these little counties will clean up their act on their own.
Please post details about the Ukraine-style rally this afternoon at 4pm in front of the capital in Olympia. Finally, a rally I found out about ahead of time so I can attend it. I heard about it on KVI radio last night, they say to wear orange since that's the color of the Ukraine street protestors, hope turnout is big. If you posted it somewhere and I just haven't seen it, then my apologies.
7. I feel so frustrated and helpless. I don't know what I can do or where to start. Suggestions??
8. Whoever would focus on King County while taking a blind eye towards other County's actions would seem to not really care about the rules. They would seem to just care about who wins, irregardless of what it takes to make that happen. The truth is that it now appears that Christine Gregoire is going to win this election legally under the processes laid out by our State Constitution. I voted for Rossi, but I will accept the outcome of the processes our Constitution tells us to follow. The question is, will the Republicans wine and complain and drag things out in court? Will they demand some remedy not specified in the Constitution (like a re-vote)? Or, will they truely take the high road and accept the will of the people, discerned as best as could be done in the ways our Constitution specifies? Of course we can all expect they will take the low road.
"Christine Gregoire is going to win this election legally under the processes laid out by our State Constitution."
Another lie. The processes are laid out in the Revised Code of Washington which was enacted by the Legislature, not the state Constitution. And the "process" of recanvassing ballots that were not canvassed (ie, determined to be valid) prior to certification of the original election results is not legal; there is no provision for recanvassing during the recount.
As I said in my post under "Chernobyl", read the #^$#$^ statutes! I even posted a URL. Your ignorance is frightening.
Jeremy - As it happens, I have criticized other counties, including counties run by Republicans. For example, I criticized Clark County for finding many votes for both Gregoire and Rossi in the re-recount. And I criticized in the same post, by implication, every county that had significant changes between the recount and the re-recount.
But there is a limit to how many posts I can do. I concentrate on King County because I believe the problems are much greater here, and this is where I live. I don't know enough details about the Grant County voting to judge, but if matters are as you say, then I think that shows, at the very least, unforgiveable sloppiness.
And now I have to go wash some clothes, do my Christmas cards, et cetera, et cetera, so if you will excuse me for a bit, . .
11. Or, maybe Jeremy could start his own blog instead of just whining on someone else's.
In case you hadn't noticed, this blog is called 'Sound Politics'.
If you would look at a map, you would notice that Grant County is land-locked in the middle of the state. King County, however, has its western border defined by Puget Sound.
The 'Sound' in 'Sound Politics' refers to 'Puget Sound'. Until Grant County somehow moves several hundred miles west, it will not be near Puget Sound, and therefore its political machinations may or may not be covered in this blog.
Get it? Pipe down and/or get your own blog. And you might try READING the state constitution so you don't end up misrepresenting what it contains.
Claiming the "moral high ground" (your words) is a little game for college students and self-styled "journalists." You're so silly.
The Republicans have understood for more than 25 years now that Democrats do not belong to a political party. Democrats are members of a criminal enterprise. That's all the Democrat Party is--a Brikenstock-wearing, latte-sipping, law-breaking gang of radical, selfish pigs and thugs.
Now that the Democrats get caught, you don't like it. Boo freaking hoo.
"Suspect elections would include the 2000 Gorton-Cantwell Senate race, the 2002 win for the Seattle monorail, and probably a number of ..."
I believe Seattle has their own elections department for their own races. The Monorail was a Seattle only initiative, and wouldn't fall under the scope of the King County Elections...
Can you stick to the topic?
Now you want an investigation into all close elections in the past, on the theory that King County mismanagement produced an illegimate result.
If the result of such an inquiry is that Slade Gorton should have been in the Senate in 2000, what are you going to do? Cry in your beer? Recall Cantwell? Recant her votes in the Senate?
What is with the Republicans and their runoff talk? Is there something in state law that permits a runoff election, without some special action of the legislature? Would a runoff election approved by the legislature even be valid?
On the one hand, you seem to suggest that the law must be followed in all particulars - but when things don't go your way, you start talking about runoffs, and revisiting the results of every election past - and you have the gall to keep suggesting that Democrats are litigious!
Can you guys visit earth for a minute? The Supreme Court indicated that the recount statute requires ONLY a retabulation. That would seem to exclude these ballots. However, Reed, and everyone else in the elections business indicates that standard practice would be to include the ballots. Other counties, in this very recount, found ballots just as King County did, and included them. If the Supreme Court's decision is applied, then we need to revisit every close election, regardless of any unique misfeasance in King County, by your logic.
The elections system in the country is a haphazard patchwork of local practices. Washington seems far more together than Florida did four years ago. The minor issues that have come up in this recount are entirely to be anticipated.
When it appears that standard practice throughout the system varies from the recent Supreme Court decision, what should the court do? It is a difficult question, one that the Supreme Court is able to tackle, but whatever the answer, no one will be entirely happy.
I'm happy to live under the rule of law. If the Democrats lose the recount, under the standards the Supreme Court adopts, fine. If we need to tweak the system, fine - we should all be thankful that weaknesses have been exposed. I won't ask that prior elections be investigated. I won't say Dino is satan.
I can't for the life of me see why Republicans can't take the same attitude. Get a life. Everybody's doing their jobs - show some respect for the process.
Christine G: "Everybody's doing their jobs"
Christine, everyone in the state has the right to know how long these shenanigans have been going on, whereever or whenever it happened. Period. We pay their salaries, we have the right to investigate.
But per your statement above, can you answer one question for me?
The King County Elections Commission collects all ballots cast in an election - poll votes, absentee ballots, and provisional ballots. Then KCEC validates some percentage, which are counted, and invalidates some other percentage, with are rejected.
Then KCEC tallies all votes that are valid and all votes that are rejected.
Here's my question: Why doesn't KCEC use proper inventory control and 'balance their books' by going back and making sure that the valid ballots plus the rejected ballots equal the number of ballots that they collected?
Corollary questions, if you feel up to it: Wouldn't this lack of inventory control result in the persons in control being fired in a private corporation? How can anyone be sure when ballots arrived or from where they arrived if standard inventory control practices are not followed? How can you claim that Ron Sims and Dean Logan and all the rest of KCEC are 'doing their jobs' when they don't account for all ballots cast?
I eagerly anticipate your reply.
17. Hmm, and I thought the name Sound Politics was simply a clever play on words that implied all opinions on this page are sound. Imagine my shock to discover it's simply a place name. Sigh. Now I bet you'll tell me there is no Santa. LOL
Truly enjoy the blog, thank god we don't have such hijinks in Alaska. Well, not to this extent anyway.
"Now you want an investigation into all close elections in the past, on the theory that King County mismanagement produced an illegimate result."
No... I want an investigation into past elections to see if King County did indeed commit vote fraud. A list of names would be nice. Some firings would be nice. Jail doesn't seem out of the question.
I do _not_ care if the chicanery changed the result of the vote - it's chicanery. This is based not on a 'theory' that there was mismanagement - it's based off direct quotes.
And yes, other counties caught cooking the books also need investigating. (Although most of the 'new ballots' are enhanced ballots that the law-following counties didn't do on the _first_ recount.)
19. Larry, ever done an inventory audit? If you had, you would know that even the best control systems do not eliminate all error. For example, if Costco physically counts all the tires in all their warehouses, it is entirely likely that the total would be off by some small number from what the general ledger shows. Should someone get fired over that? No. Same with the elections biz. You postulate a standard that is impossible to achieve (and has never been achieved anywhere)...zero errors...and then rant and rave when it isn't achieved. If you want to talk about acceptable error rates, fine, but in that case there are several counties in WA that have error rates as high or higher than King Co. with far fewer votes to count.
20. Funny that you would bring up retail inventory...as a matter of fact, you have a good point. The numbers do not always come out correctly. However, there are a finite number of causes for discrepancies.
1) Items were not shipped in reported quantities to start with
2) Items were lost due to damage/breakage (and not properly taken out of stock at such time)
3) Internal or external theft.
If any department is found to have an abnormal number of discrepancies, there are investigations and people are fired.
If a private business looked at an astronomical discrepancy and said "OOPS, gee, thats a bummer. Oh well, such is life...go home managers, go cry in your beer." We'd all be in trouble. All of the companies would go under and then who would provide income for this socia1ist utopia we're trying to create?
I wonder if tax payers have been paying for late term abortions all these years - as a result of a fraudulant election?
Initiative 120, was trailing as of Nov. 7, 1991 with 99% of the precincts reporting, 655,902 to 649,894. I'd like to see now, just exactly which county put it over the top?
What the heck are you writing about????
Apparently I didn't make myself clear. Not only does KCEC not do inventory audits and balance their books - THEY DON'T EVEN TRY!!!
They don't count....period. They don't count incoming ballots....period. They have no idea!
Certainly if they counted 900,000 ballots there would be some (hopefully small, possibly acceptable) difference.
But can you at least admit that THEY SHOULD COUNT INCOMING BALLOTS? DID YOU KNOW THAT THEY DO NOT?
I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear enough for you. I did NOT 'postulate a standard that is impossible to achieve'. I did suggest that Ron Sims, Dean Logan, and all the rest should be fired for not trying - not doing any inventory audit, not counting incoming ballots, not attempting any reconciliation, making any baseline measurements and standards moot.
Get it now, Steve-O-Reno????
23. Shouldn't someone file a federal lawsuit on behalf of voters in rural Washington claiming that the State of Washington has been violating the Equal Protection Clause by refusing to force King County to enforce election laws? It seems that every rejected vote in the state for many years has been forced to pass a certain literacy standard (the ability to sign your name the same way twice). I think you are about to see the Democrats steal another election. I hope something can be done. Even Republicans have civil rights.
Jim, it's all well and good to say that things should work out perfectly, especially in something as important as an election, but that's just not reality, is it?
I can't even get my BANK to check signatures on checks all the time. Most of them don't. Quite often they misplace and lose signature cards. And that's dealing with our $$$. Isn't it illegal to cash a check without a signature?
And an absentee ballot could be thrown out for signature "problems" as simple as a recently-married woman forgetting to sign her maiden name or the elections worker deciding that the signatures don't appear to match up.
I'm not arguing that we should disregard the rules, or even that we should be counting all of those ballots. I just don't understand this tendency of you, Stefan, and others on this blog to write about the illegality of these votes as if some sort of fraud has occurred, when there's absolutely no evidence as to WHY these votes are rejected except that someone has determined a problem with verifying the signatures.
It might be as simple as the old too-true joke about the man going in to the bank to cash a check after retirement and not being allowed because his signature doesn't match their records, and discovering that the bank has gotten used to his wife's forged signature of his name because she'd been cashing his checks all those years...
Michael, that bank story has happened to me...
I just don't understand this tendency of you, Stefan, and others on this blog to write about the illegality of these votes as if some sort of fraud has occurred, when there's absolutely no evidence as to WHY these votes are rejected except that someone has determined a problem with verifying the signatures.
There is a difference between illegal and fraudulent. Illegal means that the vote does not meet legal standards. Fraud means that it's deliberate. It's not necessary to prove fraud to say that a ballot cannot be legally counted.
As South County said, most of us are not arguing that the 735 ballots in dispute were fraudulently cast. Perhaps none of them were. That isn't the point.
The point is that according to the election law, the ballots cannot now be counted, and the democrats and KC are acting unethically at best, and maliciously at worst (and hiding it with populist propaganda about counting every vote) by insisting that they can disregard or reinterpret the law and count them anyway.
The election law requires that the pool of valid ballots be determined (by the canvassing board, and by recanvassing if errors are detected) prior to the certification of the election returns. After that, the ballots are sealed.
The rationale for the law is to prevent the fraudulent addition of ballots. Nobody said there actually was fraud on the part of the voters who cast the 735 votes (although there might have been) - but you have to follow the rules in order to achieve a process where there is confidence that no fraud occurred.
To repeat - the law requires canvassing and recanvassing of ballots to occur prior to certifying the election results. The separate section of code which governs recounts does not include recanvassing of ballots.
The dems are arguing that the recanvassing paragraph in the part of the code that sets out the rules for the initial tabulation of votes also applies to the recount. I urge you to try reading the code with this interpretation - many provisions would then make no sense, for example the provision in the recount section that directs the elections office to open the sealed box containing the ballots that have been already been canvassed, and count them. The VOTES on these ballots for the contested race can be reconvassed (ie, the canvassing board can try to determine voter intent if the hand counters disagree), but there can be no recanvassing of ballots.
The dems argument is false and misleading, and it requires the court to ignore the clear intent of the rules in favor of not disenfranchising voters who did nothing wrong.
I think its a real shame that some of the voters who cast the 735 ballots will (I hope) be disenfranchised, but I think it is better to protect the process so that we have confidence in it, than to destroy it for the sake of these voters. They should blame KC for failing to properly canvass their votes, so they legally could have been included in the recount, and not blame not the republican party for doing everything possible to make sure that the election law is not violated.
Lets see what the supreme court says.
Re: inventory contro.
1. As noted, an inventory after the fact is no more or less accurate than the original count. There is going to be a discrepancy. We are going to get different numbers every time, whether this occurs in private industry or in public service.
2. It isn't necessary 99% of the time. Generally speaking, one candidate or the other opens up a lead of at least a couple of percentage points. An inventory after the fact would likely differ from the original count, but not so much as to change the result.
You guys are surprised, after you hand that ballot to the blue haired woman who took twenty minutes to find you name on the rolls, and asked you to sign on line (squinting very hard) 21 - or 22 - no, it's 21...that there are errors creeping into the system?
Get a life, guys. People ARE doing their jobs. The process will take its course, and it has been relatively orderly.
There's even a poster calling for jail time for election officials in King County.
No wonder you righties are referred to as "wackos" so often.
Where is Ron Sims in all of this? He is nowhwere to be seen on the discussions of the election. It is his responsibility to operate the elections division as it is under his office. If Gregoire loses and these rejected ballots would have made the difference, the blame rests squarely with Sims for collosal mismanagement of the elections office.
The ultimate solution in King County may be to have an elected auditor, like the other 38 counties, who is responsible to the people and not political bosses like Sims and Larry Phillips.
30. Hey, if I was a particular election official in KC right now, I'd be on the phone with my lawyer all day, EVERY day. There are people in jail right now for far less.. a LOT less.
Thank you, Jim, for a long-overdue 'looking-into' the strange election ways of King County. For so long, we've all heard the refrain "Elections are pretty clean here in Washington".
Not once have I ever 'bought' that tripe.
I always suspected that corruption lurked in the bowels of King county. If the elections departments would ever REALLY do their jobs scrubbing the voter roles, they would find non-citizens registered (disagree? Okay, then put up $20 on that and we both know we'll find some non-citizens casting ballots and I'll fatten my wallet on the deal). They would finally stop sending some people two ballots. They would stop allowing people to vote other people's absentee ballots (yes, that happens) without the real ballot's owner ever getting their hands on it. They would ACTUALLY GET military ballots to our finest on time instead of 'tsk tsking' the fact that they somehow often seem not to accomplish that little feat. They would discover that some on the voter rolls are registered more than once.
They would actually prosecute voter fraud (right now, they don't. Bill Huennekens so much as told me so--the fraud-committer just gets a 'stern letter. Big deal!) They would stop leting non-registered people vote (yes, state law allows it, according to our dear Bill H, and presumably the election workers find it and discard it. Or not -- wink wink.)
Not pretty, folks.
Can we start the Recall Sims effort now? He's violating the Constitution with his rural land policies, and now it's obvious he's picked election officers who are wither incredibly incompetent and/or corrupt.
Sims is the latest exhibit of why Democrats should never be allowed to run anything -- they always make things worse.