The King County Canvassing Board certified the 2006 election yesterday
(l-r Asst. Superintendent Garth Fell, Board members Councilmember Julia Patterson, Interim Elections Director Jim Buck (Jimron), Prosecuting Attorney Chief-of-Staff Dan Satterberg)
This election wasn't perfect, but looks much better than the 2004 debacle. There were more votes than voters, but a much smaller discrepancy than in 2004. The reconciliation reports were better than the fraudulent or (unlawfully) non-existent reports in 2004. There's still room for improvement in processes, transparency and governance. Without such improvements, the plan to impose mail-only voting is at best irresponsible.
Nearly 443,000 valid mail ballots were counted, roughly 70% of the total. This year's Mail Ballot Report, as in 2005, is more detailed and appears more credible than the fraudulent 2004 report. (I'll be better able to validate the report after reviewing the database records, which will probably take some weeks to be released). The report reveals that there were 51 more mail votes tabulated than mail voters identified. In spite of the "award-winning" ballot reconciliation process, Fell claimed he had no idea what could account for the discrepancy. Of course some errors are inevitable in any industrial process of this size and a mere 51 unexplained votes out of 443,000 isn't necessarily a big problem when none of the contests are nearly that close. On the other hand, the fact that 62 ballots disappeared in a partial recount during this year's primary (or were falsely counted in the first place), suggests a systemic problem in the tabulation process. And those 62 ballots, in a recounted race decided by only 27 votes may have been significant.
This year's provisional ballot report is also a big improvement over the fraudulent 2004 report which concealed severe errors in provisional ballot processing. (They did seem to have better processes this year, it also helped that they had only half as many ballots to process and fewer votes cast by unregistered voters to clog the system). This year's report shows that 3 more ballots were tabulated than there were identifiable voters (11,565 ballots tabulated, 11,588 voters credited, with 26 credited ballots properly untabulated). Anne Bruskland, the Asst. Superintendent with responsibility for provisional ballots, explained, by showing a detailed report that had been run after the official summary report was created, that the official report was off by one. So the actual number of provisional votes over voters is either 2 or 4, it wasn't clear from her explanation which it was. And she had no idea what might explain the residual discrepancy.
The polling places also appeared to better run than in 2004. And staff presented the canvassing board with a bona-fide reconciliation report that explained discrepancies. (Even though this report is required by state law, no such report was presented in 2004). The report is not as clear as it could be, but it indicates that perhaps 7 unexplained poll ballots were cast, 8 provisional voters at 2 polling places were improperly allowed to vote regular ballots. And there were several one-off problems involving the new (and questionable) "AVU" touchscreen machines. But the problems were reasonably well noted and isolated to specific polling places so that corrective action can be taken.
While I cautiously applaud the improvements pending review of the detailed records, I still have serious concerns about the overall complexity of the mail ballot processing and its vulnerability to various errors. I'm also concerned about Ron Sims' culture of covering up his mistakes. I'll have more to say about this later, but just last week I finally received a box of records from the 2004 election that I had requested as early as February 2005. These records reveal some astonishing systemic failures in the mail ballot processing that significantly contributed to the debacle of 2004 and the failure to account that all mail ballots were correctly handled. These problems had not only been covered up, but overtly and repeatedly lied about during the 2004 election and its aftermath. Some of the systemic problems may have been corrected in the interim. But the gaps between what the newly released documents reveal and what Ron Sims and his people were saying in late 2004 and early 2005, should show that Sims and his people are simply untrustworthy. Again, more on this later.
Of course, among the reasons the election went smoother than 2004 is that there were 263,000 (30%) fewer ballots than in 2004 and there were no really close races. If Ron Sims gets his wish to run the 2008 election entirely by mail, we can expect 900,000 ballots to be mailed in, which would be more than twice the number of mail ballots that were processed this year. In light of everything that has happened on his watch, he doesn't deserve to be trusted with this responsbility.Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at November 29, 2006 01:53 PM | Email This