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Originally published Tuesday, December 21, 2004 at 12:00 AM

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Panel to announce hand-recount tally

King County officials tomorrow will release preliminary results of their hand recount of more than 898,000 votes, but will await a state Supreme Court decision before they decide...

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County officials tomorrow will release preliminary results of their hand recount of more than 898,000 votes, but will await a state Supreme Court decision before they decide what to do about 735 improperly disqualified absentee ballots.

The county's canvassing board, which decides which ballots are eligible to be counted, yesterday began weighing the fate of 1,627 ballots with such problems as extra markings or the wrong color of ink.

Vote-counting teams at King County's recount facility at Boeing Field sent ballots to the canvassing board for a variety of reasons. Some people cast votes for more than one candidate or filled in the "bubble" next to a candidate's name but then put an X through it. Some used check marks or X's instead of filling in the bubble, circled the candidate's name or party, wrote in a confusing name such as "Dino Bennett," or erased or whited out a vote. (Ruth Bennett is the Libertarian candidate for governor.)

Board member Dan Satterberg, chief of staff to King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng, explained before the board began going through the ballots that the law doesn't require voters to properly follow instructions for filling out their ballots. If their intent is clear, he said, it is the board's duty to count their vote.

Another member, County Councilman Dwight Pelz, said filling out a ballot isn't a "pop quiz" that voters flunk if they follow instructions imperfectly.

"Voting is not really about following instructions, it's about participating in our democracy," he said. "You shouldn't have to pass a test to have your vote counted."

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