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Trial over election to wrap up

Noel Frame goes through documents as she testifies on behalf of Democrats about evidence regarding illegal voters in the gubernatorial election challenge trial on Thursday in Wenatchee. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Noel Frame goes through documents as she testifies on behalf of Democrats about evidence regarding illegal voters in the gubernatorial election challenge trial on Thursday in Wenatchee. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Richard Roesler Staff writer

WENATCHEE – After two weeks of testimony and thousands of documents, Republicans and Democrats will make their final arguments this afternoon in a GOP lawsuit that seeks to throw Gov. Christine Gregoire out of office.

Here’s what they’ll say:

Republicans will argue the election was so error-plagued that the judge should invalidate Gregoire’s victory, won by just 129 votes.

“Look at the mess we have,” said GOP attorney Dale Foreman. “The process itself has been abused by too many bureaucratic mistakes – and they haven’t fixed it.”

Democrats will counter that for all the mistakes Republicans have highlighted in pro-Gregoire counties, the GOP don’t have the hard evidence that shows what the judge has asked for. Judge John Bridges said early in the trial that Republicans must show that mistakes were so pervasive that, if corrected, Republican Dino Rossi would have won the race.

“They don’t have anything even close,” said Democratic attorney Kevin Hamilton.

“You can’t overturn an election based on a cherry-picked subset of counties.”

In fact, Democrats went on the attack Thursday, using a page out of Republicans’ own playbook.

An investigator working for the state Democratic Party testified that her team found hundreds of felons who voted illegally in November’s election – many of them in counties that favored Rossi.

Democrats have also spent most of this week trying to show that elections are never perfect, but that the mistakes were inadvertent errors, not fraud.

“Democracy is not a machine,” said Hamilton.

“It depends on real people, and any time you have real people involved, you’re going to have mistakes.”

Foreman acknowledged that Judge Bridges said early on that Republicans must show that mistakes changed the rightful outcome of the election.

But the GOP attorneys, he said, are hoping to convince the judge to hold them to a lower standard, given the thousands of illegal votes alleged by the GOP.

“I think he didn’t expect the evidence to be so bad, the chaos to be so widespread,” Foreman said.

“The public now knows that this election was a mess and that it was too close for anybody to really know who won. Given that situation, this court has the power to do justice, to do the right thing.”

The judge said Thursday that he’ll issue an oral ruling Monday morning in the auditorium where the trial is being held.

Both sides – and the judge himself – say that whatever the verdict, the case will be appealed the state Supreme Court in Olympia.

On Thursday, Democrats told the judge that they’d found widespread evidence of illegal voting by felons in pro-Rossi counties, to offset Republicans’ similar claims in King County and other pro-Gregoire areas.

In six weeks of researching records at every county courthouse in the state, Democratic investigator Noel Frame said, her team of 20 people found evidence of illegal votes by 637 felons.

Republicans disputed the accuracy of some of the alleged illegal voters, saying they were aliases or common names, like “Steven Johnson.”

Some dates of birth didn’t match, Republicans said; others may have been involved in identity theft.

“Some of these felons had forgery convictions. A trustworthy lot,” said GOP attorney Harry Korrell.

The day ended with dueling academics.

University of Washington professor Mark Handcock testified that Republicans “did not have clear and convincing evidence that the invalid votes changed the results.”

Even if all those felons voted illegally, he said, there’s no evidence that they voted for Gregoire.

In fact, there are some obvious alarm bells in the data, he said. For one thing, three-quarters of the felons are male – and exit polls show that male voters favored Rossi, not Gregoire.

Republicans then called another UW professor, Anthony Gill, who had his own set of calculations suggesting that the true winner in the election was Rossi.

After two weeks of testimony, Judge Bridges seems to have wearied of the multiple conflicting charts and conclusion from professors hired by each side.

“I would run from your class like the wind,” he told Gill.

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