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Republicans shift focus to provisional ballots


King County election workers Linda Sanchez, left, and Colleen Kwan look over poll books Wednesday as they work to reconcile the number of voters who participated in the general election with the number of votes cast in Seattle. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
King County election workers Linda Sanchez, left, and Colleen Kwan look over poll books Wednesday as they work to reconcile the number of voters who participated in the general election with the number of votes cast in Seattle. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Rebecca Cook Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Hundreds of provisional ballots may have been counted on Election Day without being verified, state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said Wednesday.

It’s the latest in a series of allegations from Republicans who are pointing to flaws in the governor’s election and demanding a revote. After losing the first two counts, Democrat Christine Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi in the third count by 129 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast.

Vance said the admission by King County election workers that provisional ballots had been counted without verification is “absolute proof” of the need for a revote.

“It’s enough right there to invalidate the election,” Vance said. “This is a bombshell.”

Bill Huennekens, King County elections superintendent, told The Seattle Times an unknown number of provisional voters improperly put their ballots directly into vote-counting machines at polling places.

He did not return an Associated Press call for additional comment Wednesday.

Gregoire’s inauguration is scheduled for next Wednesday. Republicans are preparing for a possible court challenge to the election – the deadline to file such a challenge is Jan. 22.

Democrats downplayed the importance of the revelation.

“There would have to be thousands before it would make a difference,” said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost. “This is just the attack of the day from the Republicans.”

Provisional ballots are given to people who go to the polls on Election Day, but who aren’t listed as registered voters in the precinct. Maybe they just went to the wrong polling place, or maybe they’re not really registered voters. Election workers research afterward to determine whether the vote is valid and should be counted.

Republican election observers in King County said they saw hundreds of provisional ballots go straight into the voting machines on Election Day without any checks – and since the provisional ballots look just like regular ballots, there’s no way to tell how many were counted.

King County election workers said a review of polling place records should indicate the extent of the problem, but it may be impossible to determine exactly how many provisional ballots were fed into the tabulating machines on Election Day.

County elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said Wednesday that 31,545 provisional ballots were issued in King County. Of that number, 27,641, or 87 percent, have been validated and included in the official count.

King County this week is reconciling its list of voters in the 2004 election, which is about 3,500 names short of the number of ballots cast. At least four other counties have similar discrepancies, which county auditors say is common.

Miscast provisional votes could be one reason for the discrepancy.

“What part of it was it? I don’t know,” Huennekens told The Times. “Did it happen? Yes.”

County officials say there are several other possible innocent explanations for the discrepancies, such as voters who moved after the election, voters who were previously classified as “inactive,” or people who signed the wrong line of the sign-in book at the polls.

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