After three vote counts, Democrat Christine Gregoire was certified as the winner of the closest gubernatorial election I've ever seen. Ms. Gregoire's margin of victory over Republican Dino Rossi was but 129 votes out of over 2.6 million votes cast.
Most of the increase in Ms. Gregoire's margin came from heavily Democratic King County, where additional votes mysteriously appeared during the third (hand) recount (Dec. 13 entry in timeline).
Now, we find that over 3,500 more votes were certified by the state in King County than the number of voters who cast ballots according to county voting records:
As has been the case since Election Day, much of the attention is focused on King County. Republicans are asking questions about why the county's list of registered voters who cast valid ballots in the election shows about 3,500 fewer people than the total number of votes certified in the race.
They also continue to search for military voters who say their ballots either didn't arrive overseas in time for the election or weren't counted when the votes were returned home. Rossi appeared at a news conference with the parents of a Marine serving in Iraq who got his ballot the day after the election.
Certainly, this must be an honest error, right? Maybe not, says Dave Logan, King County elections director:
...Logan said it is not unusual to find a discrepancy that must be reconciled through a painstaking comparison of computer data and other records after votes are counted. He said that two recounts have meant the county could not do that work as quickly as usual.
But the discrepancy in this election appears to be larger than usual.
"I think historically the data has never been reconciled 100 percent between ballots cast and the voters given credit for voting," Logan said. "I think 3,500 is higher than what I'm comfortable with. ... I would be less concerned if we were in the range of 1,000 or 1,200."
Seems like one helluva fudge factor to me even at 1,000 votes in this close an election.
Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, meanwhile, says that it's very possible that Gregoire won't be sworn in on Jan. 12 as scheduled:
While Rossi said he won two of the three counts, Gregoire pointed out, "The winner was only when the manual recount was done and that was today."
That's Reed's position, too.
But the issue of the mismatched numbers in King County came as a surprise to him. And while he said some discrepancy is not unusual as counties reconcile records after an election, the number in King County is large enough that he sent a staff member to investigate.
"This is exactly the kind of issue that I think can be brought up in the contested-election statutes," Reed said.
But why did he certify the election if the numbers are in doubt?
"What I signed was a certification for the numbers that were submitted to us by the counties," he said. "I am not in a judicial or an investigative role here.
Do we have some Democrat ghost voters here? I don't know, but I perceive the first whiffs of an unmistakable stench here!
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