|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Tuesday, December 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:43 P.M.
Party faithful to tally ballots
By Jim Downing
"It's for a good cause," said Roberts, who hopes Republican Dino Rossi will maintain his 42-vote lead over Democrat Christine Gregoire.
In one of the most unusual twists in Washington's surprising gubernatorial election, King County and other places are hiring party loyalists like Roberts to count the votes in the hand recount scheduled to begin tomorrow.
Republicans and Democrats in King County have each nominated 80 party faithful to work 10 hours a day, six days a week until the recount is complete. They'll be paid $12.70 an hour.
Each party representative will be paired with a representative of the other party. The county will supply a "tabulator" to form a three-person "recount board." Each team will be responsible for hand counting an average of 11,000 ballots.
County officials say including the party activists on the teams will be more efficient and require less space than the alternative: Democrat and Republican observers lurking behind each vote-counting team.
The King County plan effectively collapses the roles of counter and observer into a single person.
Dean Logan, King County elections director, said the county's plan is "a gesture on our part to give the parties a sense of oversight on the process," while keeping the counting room from becoming too hectic.
Nevertheless, the Democratic Party objects to the system. In a lawsuit filed with the state Supreme Court challenging the state's plans for a recount, the party argues that activists can't count votes and be effective observers at the same time. The system "will prevent meaningful participation by party 'witnesses' in the hand recount," the suit says.
A machine recount that ended on Nov. 24 narrowed Rossi's lead over Gregoire from 261 to 42 votes out of 2.8 millions votes cast in the closest statewide race in Washington history.
Although putting pairs of die-hard party members together for weeks of tedious, high-pressure labor sounds like a potential nightmare, King County officials expect things to go smoothly. So does Roberts, the Republican counter.
The rules governing the recount are set up to avoid conflict at least within the recount boards. For one thing, the counters aren't going to debate difficult-to-decipher ballots. If one member of a recount board disagrees with the other two, the ballot will be set aside for later consideration by the county canvassing board.
The county canvassing board has three members: Logan, the King County elections director, was appointed by County Executive Ron Sims, a Democrat. King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng, a Republican, is represented on the board by his chief of staff, Dan Satterberg. Councilman Dwight Pelz, a Democrat, represents the King County Council and was appointed by the council president.
Logan said the majority of problem ballots were identified and reviewed during the first two counts. The Democratic lawsuit also seeks to add some previously uncounted ballots to the pool.
Some additional party observers will be allowed to watch the recount, but they will be restricted to certain areas of the counting room and won't actually inspect any ballots.
In most of the state's other counties, the political parties aren't so involved in the selection of the ballot counters. County auditors instead recruit from their lists of former poll workers.
In Whatcom County, for instance, auditor Shirley Forslof has signed up eight registered Democrats and eight registered Republicans to recount about 91,000 ballots. In Douglas County, auditor Thad Duvall has asked 10 poll workers without regard to their party affiliation to help recount about 13,000 ballots.
Hundreds of party volunteers will be watching over the recount around the state. The observers aren't allowed to touch the ballots, and their role is generally limited to notifying on-site county election officials of problems or irregularities so they won't be arguing with the paid counters over the way a ballot is counted.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said most of the GOP's observers for the hand recount are the same people who were trained to monitor the machine count. The Democrats, by contrast, are recruiting and training hundreds of new volunteers.
Tom Fischer, 64, of Bellevue, is one of those. He was a lifelong Republican until four years ago.
"I got really turned off by what the Supreme Court did in 2000," in the presidential election, he said. "It's not who won, it's how they did it."
So, on Saturday, the retired Delta Air Lines pilot and Vietnam veteran showed up with 600 others at the Machinists Hall in Seattle to be trained as a Democratic Party recount observer. The party hosted well-attended trainings in Vancouver, Yakima and Spokane on Sunday.
"I'd never been involved in this sort of thing before," Fischer said.
He's waiting for a call from party headquarters assigning him to monitor the recount of the governor's election somewhere in the state. He says he's ready to go anywhere he's needed.Jim Downing: 206-515-5627 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top