New error found in vote tally
Oops — never mind. Three days after King County election officials explained most of a controversial discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and voters known to have voted, the...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Oops — never mind.
Three days after King County election officials explained most of a controversial discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and voters known to have voted, the gap has grown again.
After whittling the discrepancy from 3,539 votes to 1,217 last week, officials yesterday said they had made a mistake.
The number of votes now unaccounted for is "somewhere around 1,800," county Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens said yesterday.
It's impossible to come up with a precise number, Huennekens said, because workers are adding and deleting names of registered voters as they update the list in preparation for a Feb. 8 special election.
Huennekens said the numbers released Friday were wrong because the names of 1,003 voters appeared twice on the voter list. Not all of them voted in the November election. Computer experts are trying to figure out why some names were on the list twice.
The state Democratic Party alerted county election officials to the goof shortly after the county gave a "reconciled" list of voters to the political parties and news media Friday, but the county didn't publicly acknowledge the problem until yesterday.
Huennekens said county staffers worked over the weekend to produce an accurate voter list.
The flawed list was an embarrassment the county didn't need at a time when the state Republican Party was already pointing to procedural errors and accounting problems in King County as grounds for holding a new election for governor.
Republicans asked Chelan County Superior Court on Friday to set aside the election results, saying the number of "mystery votes" in King County was larger than Democrat Christine Gregoire's 129-vote lead statewide over Republican Dino Rossi in the manual recount.
Rossi won the initial machine count by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42 votes.
Huennekens said the larger number of unaccounted-for votes should not shake people's confidence in the outcome of an election that he said was still "99.9x" percent accurate.
"When we're talking about as many million pieces of paper as we have to go through in administering an election, that's still pretty good," he said. "Certainly we're aware that we've got to do things better and move forward, and we're committed to doing that."
Huennekens' boss, county Elections Director Dean Logan, said Friday many of the unexplained ballots probably were cast by registered voters who failed to sign in when they went to polling places.
In addition to the approximately 1,800 votes county officials can't account for, Logan said up to 348 voters improperly put provisional ballots into counting machines at polling places before their signatures or eligibility had been verified.
Provisional ballots, which are identical to regular poll ballots, can't be separated from poll ballots after they are inserted into a tabulator. Provisional ballots are used when a voter goes to the wrong polling place or there is a question about his or her eligibility.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance yesterday called the unexplained votes and improperly cast provisional ballots "unconscionable. ... When the election is decided by 129 votes and in King County you've got 2,000 more votes than voters, this election is invalid on its face."
Democratic Party spokeswoman Lisa Cohen said the results of the hand recount were valid and should stand, despite King County's difficulty in accounting for all votes.
"It's been the most closely observed election in our lifetimes, I think. What's very important to realize and keep in context is that King County and the other counties say that their accuracy rate is more than 99.9 percent," Cohen said.
Yesterday was the second time in two days that King County elections officials corrected a factual error. They changed the county's election Web site Sunday to correct the date when absentee ballots were sent to 3,055 military and overseas voters. The county initially reported the ballots were mailed Oct. 10, two days after a deadline negotiated with the federal government.
The online fact sheet now says ballots were mailed Oct. 7.
Logan said Sunday that he discovered the date on the fact sheet originally posted by King County was in error. He said numbers on the report, which he produced himself, were inadvertently changed when converted to code for the Web site.
Staff reporter David Postman contributed to this report.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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