Part I of this exciting series on today’s plodding King County Council meeting can be summed up as follows: the military ballots went out on time, ballots were enhanced legally, and yes, some ineligible felons voted, but no it wasn’t due to corruption or negligence on the part of elections workers.
(Hmmm… perhaps Part I was a bit verbose?)
In this installment I will address the 348 improperly scanned provisional ballots, the 735 “no signature on file” ballots, and the incredibly overblown issue of the so-called “discrepancy.”
As has been widely reported, KC Elections determined that 348 provisional ballots had been improperly scanned into the AccuVote machines at the polling places, before they had been properly canvassed to see if they were legal votes. Of these, 341 have been traced to specific voters, and 252 are confirmed to have been cast by valid, registered voters.
The proper procedure is that you sign a poll book, fill out a ballot, place it inside an envelope, complete the envelope, and deposit it in the slot in the side of the AccuVote machine. Once back at the counting center, election workers verify the envelopes, just like an absentee, before adding the ballot to the count, or rejecting it.
KC elections was able to determine who cast most of these polling-place-scanned provisional ballots by comparing the poll books with the provisional envelopes received from the polling place; those who signed the poll book but for whom there are no envelopes are assumed to have fed their ballot directly into the machine.
It should be noted that they cannot directly associate a specific ballot to a specific voter (secret ballot and all that), and just because a ballot has not been confirmed to have been valid, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t. But it is clear that we have as many as 96 provisional ballots in KC that might not have been counted, had they been caste properly… and there is no way to sort them out of the mix.
Can we attribute this to election worker or administrative error? I don’t see how not. While nearly 99 percent of the over 31,000 provisional ballots were cast properly, this is an error for which there is an easy technical solution. In fact, it is so easy, that KC just implemented it in last week’s special levy election: provisional ballots had stickers placed over their barcode so that they could not be scanned at the polling place. Well, duh-uh! I suggest that a more secure solution would be to print provisional ballots with different barcodes, so as to avoid potential tampering with stickers.
Councilmember Steve “The Executioner” Hammond, believes the only way to restore public faith in elections is for “heads to roll,” but as Councilmember Julia Patterson pointed out, King County Elections only has 43 full-time employees… the polls are actually staffed by over 4000 part-time volunteers (they get nominal pay for a 12-hour day), “average citizens who come forth to engage in the democratic process.” These are the “grandmothers” that some council members talked of, and Patterson warned that talk of “heads rolling” would discourage engagement.
Personally, I’m well familiar with these grandmotherly poll workers. My South Seattle polling place has been staffed by the same table of little old ladies since I started voting there seven years ago. If Hammond is patient, I’m sure many of their heads will fall off on their own in short time.
Anyway… while it may not be satisfying to say that “mistakes were made,” and leave it at that, mistakes were made by poll workers — with about one percent of provisional ballots — and now KC Elections has devised a procedure to prevent such mistakes in the future. Problem solved.
As to what this means to Rossi’s contest, well, I’m not sure it means all that much. Remember, in addition to the grandmas, the polls were watched by observers from both parties, including an army of attorneys. If there have been any reports of massive election day fraud regarding provisional ballots, I haven’t heard it. Rossi can’t prove who the 96 ballots were cast for… at the very best, maybe a judge might value average them, taking away about 18 votes from Gregoire’s margin. But I doubt the courts would even go that far.
The 735 No-Signature-On-File Ballots
Isn’t it curious that of all the errors supposedly committed by incompetent KC election workers, the Republicans never mention this one? 735 absentee ballots were improperly left out of the first two counts because signatures had not been scanned into the computer for those voters. After these votes were discovered, the canvassing board verified and counted 566 of them (backed up by a unanimous Supreme Court decision.)
Keep this in mind… part of the Republican mantra (stupid as it may be) is that Rossi “won” two out of three counts. But if these ballots had been properly canvassed the first time around, Gregoire would have won the machine recount… leaving Rossi to pay for a hand recount. As Councilmember
Raymond Shaw Reagan Dunn profoundly pointed out, “perception is reality.” Imagine how different public perception of this election might be if Gregoire had “won two out of three” counts?
In any case I didn’t hear Hammond asking for heads to roll over this one.
And finally… “The Discrepancy”
What a load of shit.
I was talking to a reporter before the meeting, and he said I had to admit, that intuitively, it looked suspicious. And I did have to admit it… intuitively it does. But only if you don’t understand any of the underlying facts. In fact this “controversy” is based on a false assumption that these two lists were ever intended to reconcile with one another.
To put this in the proper perspective, Councilmember David Irons (hmmm… what’s he running for?) repeated his “recollection” that the 2000 discrepancy at certification was only 17 as “confirmation” that the 2004 number is out of whack. When asked about this after the meeting, Dean Logan questioned what Irons might have been recalling, considering the fact that the voter list isn’t compiled until after certification. (And I’m totally ignoring the bizarre notion that Iron’s 4-year-old “recollection” is more accurate than the actual numbers recorded on file.)
Remember the cries from the right that it was criminally irresponsible to certify this election if the voter list didn’t reconcile with the ballots cast? Kind of hard to make that a condition of certification when the crediting of voters doesn’t occur until afterwards, huh? As Logan made absolutely clear, there is “no legal reconciliation process,” an assertion that has been repeated to me by every auditor’s office I have talked to. The voter list is compiled out of an entirely different process than the count of ballots cast, and for entirely different purposes.
In addition to recording about 600,000 absentee voters, the list is compiled by hand scanning the barcode next to each signed line of over 2600 poll books. If KC Elections could fail to scan the signatures from 735 registration cards, imagine what kind of human error a hand-held scanner introduces into the process. 1,800 misscanned voters is not only understandable, it’s completely consistent with past elections and other jurisdictions. So there.
I don’t really want to expend many more pixels on this issue, as really, it is a legal non-issue… however much the public may have swallowed the righties’ propaganda. But the ever earnest Councilmember Bob Ferguson spent some time trying tease out of Logan that if one precinct had 10 extra voters and another had 10 extra ballots, then that should be a net discrepancy of 20, not zero. (The Snark nodded his head hungrily at this, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing this thesis from the dark side.) But Logan wouldn’t bite, as it ignores a fundamental aspect of voter accreditation.
Over 28,000 provision ballots were counted. And for each one, the ballot was counted in the precinct in which it was cast, where as the voter was credited for voting in the precinct in which he is registered. But if Ferguson’s logic is followed, these 28,000 provisional ballots would create a 56,000 vote discrepancy on their own!
That’s what happens when you try reconcile apples with oranges.
Ah well… I’ve run off at the fingers again. I’ve got a few more observations and comments to make, but I guess I’ll have to save them for Part III.