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I'm well aware that this report is something of an anticlimax at this juncture.  After all, we heard all about the 130-vote Gregoire margin on Thursday afternoon.  In addition, it is still unknown what Rossi and Chris Vance have in store for their next poisonous steps to discredit and undermine the state's well-run electoral process.

So we're in a strange limbo now, between what should happen -- the SoS certifies the result on the 30th, Gregoire is governor-elect, she's inaugurated on January 12 -- and what the GOP may do to gum up the works and delay the inevitable.

Rather than a full examination of the overall results, this report is something of a miniature.  I'll concentrate largely on the disputed King County ballots.  For the "big picture", refer to my report from last Wednesday or some of my earlier diaries.

More material below the fold...

As you know, the erroneously-untallied ballots that were the subject of the second Supreme Court case extended the lead held by Christine Gregoire (D-wimp who will be governor) over Dino Rossi (R-smarmy unemployed snake oil salesman), taking her edge from 10 votes to a 130-vote mandate.

But there is much additional interesting information to be gleaned from those ballots, a look inside the counting and canvassing process.  For that, we have to look somewhere other than the Secretary of State's website.  This time, the really useful data were reported by the King County elections office.  The bottom part of the linked page gives full detail on the disposition of the newly-counted ballots.

Recall that the only known characteristics of the 735 ballots in this collection were that a) they were absentee ballots, b) they were postmarked on or before November 2, and c) no digitized signatures were available to match against the ballots.

Our first observation from King County's report on the disposition of the ballots is that only 566 of them were found to be valid, countable ballots.  Nothing is said about the reasons for rejecting the other 169 ballots.  However, this appears to be an extremely high number of invalid ballots -- fully 23% of them were rejected from the count.  Now, as we'll demonstrate in a moment, King County does not report on rejected ballots in its tallies.  Thus, except here, we cannot know how many ballots were submitted but didn't make it into the denominator of Ballots Counted.  It couldn't possibly be anywhere near what we see in this group of ballots -- the county's turnout was 83%, so even if (implausibly) every single registered voter tried to cast a ballot, no more than 17% of them could possibly have been found invalid.

Thursday's King County Ballots Counted total is 566 higher than Wednesday's, indicating that King includes write-ins, undervotes (aka blanks), and overvotes in that quantity.  I haven't studied county reporting criteria, but I think it's not impossible that other counties might differ in the categories of ballots included in that denominator.  For instance, they might not include overvotes as valid, countable ballots.

Among those 566 valid ballots, the three named candidates drew 528 votes.  Libertarian Ruth Bennett got more than twice her expected number, while the percentages for Rossi and Gregoire were lower than expected from their overall county results.  Valid non-candidate votes came to 6.7% of the valid ballots, far more than the 2.5% seen in the overall King County results, and above even the highest such proportion in any county (Clark County, at 5.5%).  Fully 6.2% of the 566 valid ballots displayed no choice at all in the governor's race.

Gregoire's vote count wasn't significantly lower than expectation based on overall KC results, but the differences for Rossi (low), Bennett (very high), and not-candidate (extremely high) were significant.


One point about the overall manual recount...  

Soon after the King County results came in, the Republicans began screaming about a post-certification change in the vote count in Thurston County, implying that if they could add a Gregoire vote after their totals were certified, then strong-Rossi counties should be able to do the same thing.

Well, I don't know the story behind the Thurston situation.  I've assumed all along that the SoS website only reported certified results -- that's why they never showed the Wednesday King County totals, with Gregoire leading by 10.  I rechecked my day-by-day snapshots from the hand recount, and indeed Thurston County showed Gregoire gaining 15 new votes on December 15th, and then changing it to +16 on December 20.

But that's not the only change in a candidate's votes in a county.  Jefferson County reported Rossi at +5 on December 9, at +6 on December 10 and thereafter.  On those same dates, Pacific County reported no new Bennett votes, then +1 for her.  In Whitman County's initial report on December 14, Gregoire added 4 new votes; on December 16, that count became +7.


The story isn't over yet.  More to come, no doubt, in the way of frivolous Republican lawsuits (or at least frivolous threats of frivolous lawsuits).  And, once I've had a chance to catch my breath, I plan to draw some bigger conclusions about what the recount process shows us here in Washington and across the nation.

Originally posted to Peace Tree Farm on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 12:44 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (4.00)
    If this disappears due to the odd submission time, I may repost it later...

    You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

    by N in Seattle on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 12:34:46 AM PST

    •  I think the difference (none)
      between the Thurston vote change (+ 1 for Gregoire) was they they had already certified, reopened their canvass board, added a vote and recertified!  That is what got the R's howling this time.  And they may be right....

      As I see it, depending on what the Sec of State does with this piece of political hot potato, the Rs may have a leg to stand on in a federal suit:

      If Sam certifies the election while including the one Thurston vote...the R's can file under 14th AMM and declare unequal protection of voters. If the SOS refuses to certify because of that one invalid recanvassed vote...same thing.  If Reed certifies Chris as the winner by +129 votes, not counting the Thurston invalid vote...we could be home free.

      We shall see what kind of Republican he is...there is a lot on the line and a great deal of pressure on Sam Reed right now.

      Tell me how you spend your time and how you spend your money -- I'll tell you what your values are.

      by oldpro on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 12:54:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are you saying (none)
        Rossi will be handed the election by Bush's federal judges, all because of one vote in Thurston County?
        •  doubt it (none)
          I still don't think that nuclear option will get them very far.

          If nothing else, the Ninth Circuit remains as one of the few federal benches where sanity, logic, and rationality still flourish.

          You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

          by N in Seattle on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 07:28:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Good grief, No! (none)
          I'm saying a federal court could apply the 14th Ammendment (equal protection) to a Republican lawsuit to open up other counties canvasssing boards to fish for more Rossi votes IF the recanvass of Thurston County is allowed by Sam Reed when and if he certifies the election with that one vote included in the final count.  I see now that Clark County will reconvene its canvassing review 28 votes...most of whom said they voted for Rossi.  This is what could happen county after county.  Then what do the Dems do?  Go fishing themselves?  Endlessly?

          It all depends on what Sam Reed does.

          Tell me how you spend your time and how you spend your money -- I'll tell you what your values are.

          by oldpro on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 11:10:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm confused (none)
    I thought there were originally two kinds of rejected ballots:

    1. Ballots rejected due to errors by the voter that still allowed determining who the voter wanted as governor.  Dems said count these, Repubs said no credit for screw-ups.  WA Supreme Court sided with Repubs so they weren't counted.  

    2. Ballots rejected due to errors by the vote counters.  Dems said count these, Repubs said no, if counters make a mistake and favor a candidate that the voters don't really want, that's tough for the voters, the mistake stands.  Lower court agreed with Repubs but WA SC overturned, so these were counted, resulting in Gregoire win.

    Repubs are now saying go back and count the ballots rejected to voter error, which the Dems wanted counted in the first place and the Repubs had opposed counting.  Except it sounds like they only want to count some of the rejected ballots, a subset chosen to favor Repubs.  

    Dems should just say, count 'em all, if Repubs now want to change their stance on #1, then go for it, count all the ballots previously rejected due to Repub opposition.

    •  not really (none)
      clyde, that's not what the two Supreme Court cases were about.  You have some of the elements, but they're simultaneously jumbled together and torn apart ... and you haven't quite gotten to the essence of either case.

      The first case, brought by the Dems and opposed by the GOP and the SoS, asked the Court to require all counties to do what King County was trying to do -- to re-examine submitted ballots to check anew whether they belonged in the denominator of Ballots Counted.  The Court unanimously rejected the Democrats' petition, based on state law that places the responsibility for choosing recount procedures and definitions on the counties.

      At the time that case was filed, the disputed-ballots situation was unknown.  That involved ballots that had not been counted, but had been either laid aside for further processing that didn't occur, or rejected as invalid without having gone through proper procedures.  The GOP got a restraining order to prohibit King County from making up for its error, and the Democrats (supported this time by the SoS) appealed to the Supreme Court.  This time, the Court agreed with the Democrats, allowing King County to canvass those 735 ballots in which the intent of the voter had not previously been ascertained.

      Maybe I'm being overly precise here.  The second case did not revolve around errors by King County's vote counters; it was a question of whether to permit those ballots to even be placed before the counters to be examined.

      You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

      by N in Seattle on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 07:08:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Uniting Democrats and Republicans (none)
    There is one thing that both parties have in common:

    Just as in poker, the losers cry, "Deal."

  •  Re validating the 735 (none)
    Several factors might explain the lower qualification rate.

    First, these ballots went through a truncated signature-matching process. Their belated discovery did not leave time for the usual notification letters to voters, and response from voters.

    These ballots were validated primarily (or exclusively?) by matching to hard-copy records in the County's possession ... and the Judge Arend's restraining order froze the validation process for several days.

    The ballots in question were those for which good matches were not available among digital images of the hardcopy documents. There are several possible reasons for this. The documents could have been misfiled, or damaged, or poorly executed by the voter in the first instance, or affected by confusion over voter name or other identifying descriptors.

    It does not strike me as remarkable that the ballot qualification rate was low.

    The incidence of Libertarian votes is more interesting. One possiblity is that many Libertarians delight in coloring outside the lines. Given a form and a process, they will treat inscribe the form as creatively as possible to frustrate the process.

    •  yabbut (none)
      RonK, are you saying that more of those 169 ballots would have been accepted as valid if there had been more time to make signature comparisons?  I suppose that's possible ... my knowledge of signature-comparison methodology is nonexistent.  How long does it ordinarily take for the comparison and decision?

      As for your point about Libertarians, let's stipulate that Libs might be outside-the-box types.  That does not in any way address the issue of why there were so many of them in this seemingly-random sample of absentee ballots.  I didn't look at whether the proportion of Lib votes by itself, without concern for how the other 540 ballots were distributed across the other possibilities, was significantly different from the expected value, but I'm absolutely certain that it was.  Quick-and-dirty -- if we expected 13 and got 26, that contributes about 13 to the chi-square value before looking at the other cell ... and it only takes 3.84 to achieve a p-value of 0.05 with 1 degree of freedom.

      You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

      by N in Seattle on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 12:41:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I'm saying that more would have counted (none)
        ... if these ballots went through the normal cycle -- a process that can take up to 5 weeks. Absentee ballots may be received up to 3 weeks before election day, and signature validation starts immediately upon receipt.

        "Normal" absentee ballots that failed the signature match triggered form letters to the voter (and in this race, a flood of volunteer telephoners and doorbell-knockers), and the problem may be corrected by affidavit or personal appearance up to initial certification (E-day + 2 weeks).

        The sidetracked ballots did not go through this process. They sat in file boxes until roughly the day before the first Supreme Court hearing, and the Arend hearing forcibly halted all related records-dredging and signature-matching.

        IIRC, Dean Logan indicated they had located original signature documents for 583 of the 735 ballots, as of the Supreme Court go-ahead. Canvassing Board met the next day to consider approve processing ballots, and certified the day after. I may be wrong, but I don't think they went beyond the 583, either in combing paper document troves for misfiles, or contacting voters for first-person verification.

      •  The Lib numbers look significant (none)
        ... but remember these were ballots that somehow avoided proper hardcopy-to-digital imaging, or indexing, or lookup for validation. Some misses were presumably random human error (imaging operator asleep at switch) or randomish machine error (form misfeeds) there are probably some non-random risk factors.

        Give a libertarian a form that says "do not fold, spindle or mutilate", and some of them will do all three, in addition to violating "last name first" and any other coding directives.

        My guess is that some of this "spite the system" playfulness gave libertarian registrations more than average odds of ending up in the Land of Lost Signatures.

        •  why bother? (none)
          If they're so damned contemptuous of "the system" that they'll resort to such pettiness, why participate at all?

          It's vaguely like all the Republicans who run for office (supposedly) intending to shrink government to insignificance.

          You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

          by N in Seattle on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 01:30:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  "from 10 votes to a 130-vote mandate" (none)
    At least the gay marriage bashers won't have a problem with Chris Gregoire having a man date.

    When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross -- Sinclair Lewis

    by DC Pol Sci on Mon Dec 27, 2004 at 05:40:20 PM PST

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