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Originally published April 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 25, 2009 at 12:09 AM

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King County settles vote-records suit from 2004 governor race

King County has agreed to pay conservative blogger Stefan Sharkansky $225,000 to settle a public records lawsuit he brought over the county's delay in releasing documents about the 2004 governor's election.

The Associated Press

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King County has agreed to pay conservative blogger Stefan Sharkansky $225,000 to settle a public-records lawsuit he brought over the county's delay in releasing documents about the 2004 governor's election.

Sharkansky filed his request in December 2004, seeking a list of everyone who voted in the county in the election that year, but the county didn't satisfy the request until more than two years later.

County spokeswoman Carolyn Duncan said in an e-mail that information in the documents provided to Sharkansky would not have changed the outcome of the razor-thin race between Democrat Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi. Gregoire won by 133 votes following two recounts and a trial in Chelan County Superior Court.

Sharkansky, however, says the documents show that King County elections officials counted hundreds of ineligible ballots — including double votes and votes from unregistered or improperly registered voters. He says they could, indeed, have changed the outcome of the election.

The documents were not produced during the trial, and therefore "the trial never explained this mystery of why there were more votes than voters," Sharkansky said Friday.

"Additional documents that were released last month in discovery for my case confirmed that county officials both knew more about the illegal vote counting than they had previously acknowledged, and also knowingly withheld responsive documents from me during 2005 and 2006," he wrote on his blog, www.soundpolitics.com.

In a statement Friday, King County said officials had a hard time fulfilling Sharkansky's request because they were so busy dealing with the recounts and the court challenge.

"Elections staff made every effort to provide Mr. Sharkansky with all of the documents he wished to review as soon as reasonably possible," the statement said. "... Nonetheless, Mr. Sharkansky sued King County in 2005 over the county's handling of his requests."

Duncan declined to comment on Sharkansky's analysis that hundreds of ineligible votes were counted.

In January, the state Supreme Court struck down a $124,000 penalty assessed to King County in another case. The justices said the amount was not enough to punish the county for refusing to give businessman Armen Yousoufian records involving economic studies of Qwest Field.

Sharkansky wrote on his blog Friday that the size of the payment, which King County offered before trial, clearly reflected its culpability.

The county's statement noted that it now has a full-time public-records specialist to handle requests.

Material gathered by Seattle Times staff was used in this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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