In the wake of the Seattle P-I’s devastating deconstruction of King County’s so-called discrepancy as a “red herring, a flap over a postelection file-maintenance chore that has no bearing on the accuracy of the election returns,” Rossi supporters have started to respond by questioning whether King County actually followed the law, and reconciled election returns at all. Indeed, the always magnanimous Snark downright dismisses us “prolific fabulists from the lunatic-fringe blogs,” accusing us of delirium.
Gregoire’s delirious fans read this as conclusive exculpatory evidence. Those of us who inhabit the world of facts see this as the doughnut hole that it is: If this year’s ballot/vote credit discrepancy of 1800+ is incommensurate with the 2000 reconciliation discrepancy of 20, then what is the 2004 reconciliation discrepancy that is commensurate with the 2000 number? The article doesn’t say. As far as I can tell, King County has never released this number nor has it released any documents with precinct-by-precinct ballot reconcilation.
Gee, I dunno Stefan, if you really wanted to know if King County has made documents available on their precinct-by-precinct reconciliation, perhaps you might take a break from peeling that thick, orange skin off your “apple”, and… um… ask them? That’s what I did; I emailed KC Elections Director Dean Logan, and while I still have more questions to follow up, I think his answer sheds quite a bit of light on the subject:
Regarding the precinct/poll site reconciliation process, this is one of the upfront processes I have spoken about. We employ a canvassing crew that goes through the reconciliation worksheets in the poll books and compares the data to the precinct/poll site vote totals after Election Day. The 20+ canvassing crew members compare the totals generated from the vote tabulation system to the data provided by the poll workers. Where there is a discrepancy noted in this process, we “zero out” the vote totals for that location, retrieve the ballots (from sealed containers secured by the poll workers at the closing of the polls) and re-run those precincts. The crews worked 10-hour days, seven days a week in this effort.
Additionally, a notebook is maintained that tracks the count of signatures in the poll books, number of provisional ballots cast/submitted, number of absentee ballots returned at the polls, etc.
According to KC Elections Communications Specialist Bobbie Egan, in addition to the poll books, there is a “big binder” down at the office that contains all the reconciliation data Logan cited above, for all 2616 precincts. Unfortunately, there is no compilation of the data, but this is somewhat understandable considering the complicated and subjective nature of the reconciliation process itself.
“Subjective?” Well before my righty readers indignantly accuse me of a whitewash, let me explain.
King County has 2616 precincts, an unusually high number even considering our population, and most polling places serve multiple precincts. According to Egan, one of the most common polling place errors is for a voter to sign into Precinct A, only to have the little old lady hand him a ballot from Precinct B. (Yes… each precinct has its own distinct ballot.)
During the reconciliation process, this shows up as an extra voter in Precinct A, and an extra ballot in Precinct B.
Of course there could be a more nefarious explanation for such a discrepancy… for example, corrupt election workers might have stuffed an extra Gregoire ballot in Precinct B, and destroyed a Rossi one from Precinct A. Thus, in the snarky world of the right-wing blogs, this single error might be “evidence” of two fraudulent acts in favor of Gregoire.
Fortunately, there are additional controls in place. A ballot number is recorded in the poll book, and from this, the precinct number can be determined. (The number is detached to retain ballot secrecy.) To reconcile Precinct A, canvassers must go through the poll book, check all the ballot numbers, and find the voter(s) who received the wrong ballots. Then they must go to the other effected precincts and attach an explanation. But the end result is that there is still a discrepancy… an explained discrepancy, but a discrepancy nonetheless.
The Rossi camp would have you believe that this is all quite simple: just added up the numbers and see if they match. But that’s the easy part. There are many different reasons why discrepancies might creep into the reconciliation worksheets, and the part of the process that took two weeks of ten-hour shifts to complete, was figuring out exactly what these reasons were.
When a discrepancy could not be resolved or explained by the reconciliation worksheet or the ballot count or the poll books, the canvassers actually interviewed the poll workers to try to discern what happened. Logs and notes are kept of the entire reconciliation process, and stuffed inside that big fat binder. So yes, KC election workers put an incredible amount of work into precinct-by-precinct reconciliation, as required by law, prior to the initial certification date. But whether an individual discrepancy was sufficiently explained, so as to be considered more or less reconciled… well, that can indeed be somewhat subjective.
In talking with elections officials I had hoped that they might have a firm variance number, but they don’t. A county-wide number simply was not compiled, and to do so would require laboriously pouring through the binder and related data and documentation. And even then, what would the variance number represent, when a discrepancy sufficiently explained to my satisfaction might not satisfy the Snark?
Still, this binder and the poll books are sitting down there at KC Elections for anybody to inspect. And so I asked Egan if anybody — Rossi’s attorneys, the BIAW, know-it-all right-wing bloggers — had actually asked to see this binder, and she answered yes… a single Seattle reporter.
Which raises an important question. If Rossi supporters are so suspicious about whether King County actually reconciled the results of this election, why aren’t they interested in examining the actual reconciliation records? Why instead do they insist on focusing on voter creditation, a process that has absolutely nothing to do with precinct-by-precinct reconciliation?
The answers you get depend on the questions you ask. Apparently, the Rossi folk are only interested in getting the answers they want to hear.