Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Washington Supremes say uncounted votes may be counted

In an amazingly speedy decision the Washington Supreme Court has decided to allow 723 ballots from King county that had been erroneously set aside to be counted. They had been removed from the count because election officials did not find the signatures in a computer database. I watched the arguments on C-Span just this afternoon!

Republicans argued against including the ballots. ABCNews reports

Up until Wednesday, the 723 King County ballots had not been included in the hand recount, because a lower-court judge granted a Republican request to temporarily block the counting of those votes.

During arguments in front of the state Supreme Court, a lawyer for the secretary of state's office argued that state law allows canvassing boards to fix errors made by elections staff.

"The recount process is to secure a prompt, accurate closure to close elections," lawyer Thomas Ahearne said. "Correcting errors by election officials makes the results more accurate."

But Harry Korrell, a lawyer for the Republican Party, countered that state law does not grant King County the right to add new ballots to the recount seven weeks after the election.

"A recount is limited to a retabulation of the ballots that were already determined to be valid," Korrell said.

When Korrell argued that counting those votes would cause irreparable harm, the justices questioned who would be hurt.

"You're looking at it from the point of view of the winner or the loser shouldn't we be looking at it from the point of view of the voter?" asked Justice Susan Owens.

All of the brouhaha, of course, is about who is to be the governor. The ballots in question are from a Democratic-leaning area and are presumed to favor Dem candidate Christine Gregoire.

ABCNews suggests that the case will be appealed further. So the U.S. Supreme Court may yet determine who is to be the Governor of Washington.

It appears that Republicans do not trust our electoral system—

State GOP spokesman Chris Vance called [the ballots'] discovery weeks after the election "very suspicious." And some Washington state residents who had calmly been watching the recount with confidence in their state's reputation for clean politics were starting to have their doubts.

While the ABCNews report says nothing of this, I believe from watching the arguments that the ruling gives permission for King County elections officials to canvass the votes, which means that they will be scrutinized to determine their validity. Only those that are demonstrably valid may be counted, so the actual number of new votes may be less than the 723 ballots.

Related post
Democrats claim Gregoire has won Washington State

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