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Tuesday, December 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Snohomish wants to use tapes, not paper, in recount
By Keith Ervin
After drawing up detailed plans for printing paper ballots from their touch-screen voting system, Snohomish County election officials want to use computer tapes instead of paper in their "manual" recount of votes for governor.
The latest wrinkle in the second recount of the closest major race in state history comes because Snohomish and Yakima counties use electronic voting machines that don't print paper records of votes cast.
They are the only two Washington counties that used the modern but controversial machines in the Nov. 2 election.
Republican Dino Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by 261 votes statewide in the initial count and by 42 votes after a machine recount. Democrats have requested, and are paying for, a manual recount.
Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger said yesterday it makes little sense to print paper ballots now and count them by hand, when the paper ballots would show exactly the same result as a computer count.
He suggested it would make more sense to tally votes recorded on computer tape and compare the results with the computer-cartridge results used to tabulate results in the first two counts.
"Another solution, frankly, is to do nothing," and simply go with the machine recount of votes from computer cartridges, Terwilliger said.
The Secretary of State's Office rejected the do-nothing option, but endorsed a tape-based recount on the condition that both political parties and gubernatorial campaigns agree to it.
Spokeswomen for Rossi's campaign and for the state Democratic Party said talks continue about how best to count Snohomish and Yakima county votes.
State Elections Director Nick Handy said computer experts have advised that hand-counting paper printouts of a known computer tally would introduce the possibility of error by human counters.
Secretary of State Sam Reed earlier this year issued a regulation that touch-screen machines produce a written, voter-verified record of each vote starting Jan. 1, 2006.
About 96,000 Snohomish County voters used the touch-screen machines. More than twice that many about 65 percent of voters cast paper ballots as absentee voters. The absentee ballots will be recounted by hand.
Terwilliger yesterday joined Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy and King County Elections Director Dean Logan at King County's manual-recount center in rented office space at Boeing Field.
Logan said 300 workers will begin sorting ballots by precinct tomorrow in "a long process, a tedious process," that is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 22.
The actual hand-counting of ballots by three-member teams will begin Friday or Saturday.
The Dec. 22 deadline could become meaningless if the state Supreme Court rules in favor of the state Democratic Party, which wants every county to take a fresh look at irregular ballots that weren't tallied in the first two counts.
If the Democrats win that case, to be heard by the high court tomorrow or Thursday, Logan said, "It is likely, almost guaranteed, that for King County this process will not be completed by the end of the year."
Handy agreed: "I think it would add weeks to the process."
Workers yesterday were setting up 80 tables, each to seat two counters and a recorder, in King County's recount facility.
A cage was built out of chain-link fence to store ballots when they are not being sorted or counted.
Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens said two armed sheriff's deputies will guard the ballots.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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