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Context of 'January 24-28, 2005: Washington State Republicans Allege Almost 500 Felons Illegally Voted in 2004 Election, 300 More ‘Illegal’ Votes'

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Real-estate mogul Dino Rossi (R-WA), who was declared the loser in the 2004 Washington State gubernatorial race by a mere 129 votes (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005), demands that the entire result be thrown out and a new election held. “Quite frankly, folks, this election has been a total mess,” he says. Secretary of State Sam Reed (R-WA), who certified Christine Gregoire (D-WA) as the legitimate governor, responds, “I do not feel like this has been a botched election.” He says the election process had been fair, but adds, “I would not say I think somebody ought to be conceding at this point.” Rossi can contest the election, Reed says. Rossi says if a court finds in his favor, he would argue for an entirely new election as opposed to the court or the legislature deciding the outcome. “The people have a right to decide who their next chief executive officer is for the state of Washington, if we end up with an election set aside,” he says. Rossi urges Gregoire to join him in calling for a new election in the interest of comity and voter confidence. If she takes the position after the recounts, Rossi says, her tenure will be “shrouded in suspicion.” To head that off, he says, “[a] revote would be the best solution for the people of our state and would give us a legitimate governorship.” Gregoire’s spokesperson Morton Brilliant says Gregoire is not considering such an action. “This ain’t golf,” he says. “No mulligans allowed here, folks.” Washington Democrats call Rossi’s request “ridiculous” and “hypocritical.” Kirsten Brost of the Washington Democratic Party says: “In the same breath, Dino Rossi says a drawn-out process would hurt Washington state and then he asks for another election. He wants to spend $4 million of taxpayer money for a new election because he doesn’t like the results.” State law does not allow for a revote, but Reed says it could happen if a court or the state legislature orders one. Rossi says that if his and Gregoire’s positions were reversed, he would welcome a new election. “I would not want to enter office with so many people viewing my governorship as illegitimate,” he says. Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro (R-WA) originally called for a revote, saying the current election count had been bungled so badly no one had confidence the votes were counted accurately. Munro is the chairman of Votehere Inc., a company that manufactures a “safe and secure” voter tallying system. Munro denies trying to drum up business for his firm, and says that if such a revote were held, he would not care who won. (Thomas 12/30/2004)

Washington State Republicans file a lawsuit challenging the results of an election recount that gave Christine Gregoire (D-WA) the victory in a close race for the governorship against Dino Rossi (R-WA—see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Rossi’s recent demand for an entirely new election was not heeded (see December 29-30, 2004). Rossi announces the lawsuit, challenging the validity of the recounts that eventually gave Gregoire the victory. He says that if the court finds in his favor, he would again ask for a new election: “It’s clear that this election is a mess. A re-vote is the only way I think we can go.” The suit is being filed in Chelan County Superior Court, an eastern county. Republicans say they prefer this venue to a court in Western Washington, which they say is more liberal. Kirsten Brost of the Washington Democratic Party says that regardless of what the court may say, there is no provision in state law for a new election. “If they are going to have another election, they would have to amend the state Constitution,” she says. Rossi and state Republicans are claiming that voter fraud gave Gregoire the victory. “We’ve found people who are felons that have voted, we’ve found people who have voted more than once,” Rossi says. “We’ve also found people who have remained politically active after they are dead.” (Sanders 1/7/2005)
Reports of Dead People Casting Votes - The Seattle press recently reported that a Seattle resident had cast a vote on behalf of his wife who had died shortly before the election. The man said his wife wanted him to cast her vote for Rossi, and he did so. “A dead person cannot vote, not even for me,” Rossi says. Seattle prosecutors are investigating the charge, along with evidence that at least seven other ballots for dead voters were cast. One of the eight cases uncovered by the Seattle press was due to an administrative error that inaccurately listed a living voter as having died. Another vote cast by a woman who died in August was challenged by the woman’s husband, who insists that he destroyed the absentee ballot mailed to their residence after she died. A third case involves a woman using her deceased husband’s absentee ballot instead of the one mailed in her name. Another was cast by a man who filled out his absentee ballot, then died before he mailed it. His wife mailed the ballot on his behalf. “These are not indications of fraud,” says Bill Huennekens, King County’s elections supervisor. “Fraud is a concerted effort to change an election.” (Le and Nicolosi 1/6/2005; Sanders 1/7/2005)
Hundreds of Provisional Ballots Causing Controversy - More to the point are the hundreds of provisional ballots which may have been improperly counted. Republicans say that King County, the state’s largest county and a reliable Democratic stronghold, counted many provisional votes without determining that the people who cast them were registered voters. King County officials recently admitted that 348 provisional ballots were mistakenly counted. Gregoire was certified the winner by 129 votes, though it is unlikely that all 348 provisional ballots were cast for Gregoire.
Minor Mistakes Being Used to Challenge Election? - Brost says that Republicans are pointing at a small number of routine tallying errors and trying to use them to reverse a legitimate outcome. “In order to throw out this election,” she says, “they would have to prove that the mistakes made resulted in the wrong person winning. It’s not sufficient to just say there’s mistakes.” Secretary of State Sam Reed (R-WA) says he approves of the lawsuit. “A court of law is the proper forum to provide a judicious and objective answer to legitimate questions raised about the elections and its results,” he says. (Sanders 1/7/2005)

Washington State Republicans claim they have found 489 felons who illegally voted in the November 2004 election, and 300 or more votes that they allege were cast illegally. They are challenging the results of a recount that gave Christine Gregoire (D-WA) the governorship of Washington over Republican challenger Dino Rossi (R-WA—see January 7, 2005). Four hundred and twenty-four of those alleged felons are in King County, Washington’s largest county and a heavily Democratic stronghold. Seattle is in King County. Fourteen alleged felons are in Pierce County, which includes the large urban area of Tacoma. A Seattle Times investigation has found 129 felons in King and Pierce counties who voted without having their rights restored. Both the Times and the Washington GOP are using criminal records databases to make their determinations, and public voting records from the Office of the Secretary of State. It is not recorded which candidates these alleged felons voted for. Washington Republicans say that they have found more than enough evidence of improper voting to justify a new election (see December 29-30, 2004), but Washington Democratic Party official Kirsten Brost says, “There’s no proof that Dino Rossi won the election, and that’s what you need to show.” (Postman 1/27/2005; Postman 1/29/2005)

Superior Court Judge John Bridges rules that Washington State will not have a new election to determine who is governor of the state. Bridges is presiding over a lawsuit filed by Washington Republicans that asks him to throw out the recount that determined Christine Gregoire (D-WA) defeated Dino Rossi (R-WA) in the November 2004 election (see January 7, 2005). Gregoire was sworn in as governor on January 12, 2005 (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Bridges rules that even if Republicans prove their contention that the election was so fundamentally flawed that the results are in doubt (see January 24-28, 2005), state law does not allow for a revote. “The court doesn’t have the authority,” Bridges rules. Bridges also throws out a Democratic request to have the case thrown out entirely. Republicans call the ruling a minor victory for Democrats that means little in the larger context, but Democrats call the ruling the beginning of the end for Republican hopes of having Gregoire’s victory vacated. Rossi’s campaign calls the ruling “a crushing day for Democrats.” A lawyer for the Washington Democratic Party, Russell Speidel, calls the ruling “a huge decision for Christine Gregoire.” Speidel says that under Bridges’s rulings, Republicans “now have to specifically prove that Mr. Rossi won the election,” an extremely difficult legal goal to meet. Speidel says that in essence, Republicans would have to march hundreds of people through the court to admit that they cast illegal votes for Gregoire. Republicans say that Speidel’s assessment is flawed. (Kamb 2/4/2005)

The Justice Department is sent a letter, apparently via surface mail, that, according to a department control sheet, “request[s] an investigation into the voting irregularities and the certification of the Washington State 2004 election” (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005, December 29-30, 2004, January 7, 2005, January 24-28, 2005, February 4, 2005, and March 5, 2005). The sender of the letter is redacted from the control sheet. The letter is marked as received on March 10. On March 15, the letter is referred to the Civil Rights Division “for component response,” and referred to several other bureaus within the department, including the Offices of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. The Civil Rights Division sends a reply on March 24, 2005. The reply is not included in the documents later released by the Justice Department. (US Department of Justice 6/21/2007 pdf file)

The Seattle Times reports that Washington State Democrats believe the White House is behind the efforts to force a recount in the November 2004 governor’s race. Christine Gregoire (D-WI) defeated Dino Rossi (R-WI) after a recount gave Gregoire a narrow victory (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Since then Rossi and Washington State Republicans have demanded new recounts or even a new election (see December 29-30, 2004). In January 2005, they filed a lawsuit to overturn the election results, alleging voter fraud tainted the vote (see January 7, 2005, January 24-28, 2005, and February 4, 2005). The FBI and US Attorney John McKay have investigated the allegations of voter fraud and found them groundless (see December 2004 and January 4, 2005), though state Republicans have been displeased with those findings (see Late 2004 or Early 2005, Late 2004, and January 4, 2005). As the lawsuit wends its way through the courts, Democrats tell reporters that the evidence being brought to bear by state Republicans in the lawsuit is worthless. One party attorney says their list of alleged illegal voters would end up as toilet paper “in an outhouse on Blewett Pass” on the mountain highway route that leads to the Chelan County courthouse, where the case will be heard. However, solicitations sent by Washington State Democratic Party chairman Paul Berendt say the White House, led by deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, is pushing the GOP lawsuit. Berendt’s letter warns of “guerrilla tactics” by “right-wing attorneys” and “extremist operatives” who are “meticulously crafting a case to unseat Christine Gregoire.” Berendt stands behind the letter, saying: “[W]e believe this, too. We believe that Rove is in regular contact with people here.” Rossi spokesperson Mary Lane confirms that the Rossi campaign is regularly updating the White House on the case, saying: “They’re interested in what’s going on.… We talk to them about it.” However, “[t]here’s certainly no Karl Rove pulling strings.” White House spokesperson Ken Lisaius says no one in the Bush administration is involved in the lawsuit, telling a reporter: “As reluctant as I am to comment on an inflammatory fund-raising piece, those are just not the facts. The White House is not directing any sort of strategy for the Rossi campaign and to suggest otherwise is to suggest someone is not very well informed.” Berendt points to the Rossi campaign’s use of Washington, DC, attorney Mark Braden as chief counsel; Braden spent 10 years as chief counsel to the Republican National Committee. Berendt says his party uses local attorneys. He also cites Rove’s 1994 involvement in the case of an Alabama state Supreme Court election, in which Rove fought for a recount claiming that the election had been “stolen.” The Times writes: “There are parallels to the current dispute here over the governor’s election. In both cases, Republicans held a news conference with the parents of a military voter to question whether overseas ballots were handled properly. Republicans in both states filed a lawsuit that named a long list of public officials as respondents. Both held rallies; business groups financed media campaigns.” Rove’s candidate eventually won (see Early 1994 - October 1995). Berendt says that Rove was also behind failed attempts to force recalls of Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed and Democratic King County Councilman Dow Constantine. Berendt writes, “We know what they’re doing, and we’re going to tell the world that it’s the Bush team, with the Bush tactics, and Karl Rove pulling the strings that’s trying to defeat us.” (Postman 3/5/2005)

Lawyers for the Washington Democratic Party celebrate after the court ruling certifying Christine Gregoire as governor.Lawyers for the Washington Democratic Party celebrate after the court ruling certifying Christine Gregoire as governor. [Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer]State Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D-WA) is certified the winner of the Washington State governor’s race against challenger Dino Rossi (R-WA). Rossi was initially declared the winner (see November 2-30, 2004), but the race was so close that Gregoire asked for a recount, as was her right under the law (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Republicans challenged the recount in court, citing 1,678 votes as “illegal” (see January 7, 2005 and January 24-28, 2005). Superior Court Judge John Bridges rules against the Republican plaintiffs. He finds that although some voting irregularities did occur in the largely Democratic King County, they were not the result of deliberate voter fraud or manipulation. “No evidence has been placed before the court to suggest fraud or intentional misconduct,” he says. “Elections officials attempted to perform their responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner.” In only five instances—five votes—was evidence presented that showed the intent of the voter in the 1,678 “illegal” votes cast. For the other 1,673, officials were unable to determine which candidate the voters in question selected on Election Day. None of those five votes were for Gregoire: Democrats presented evidence that four convicted felons had illegally voted for Rossi and a fifth for a third-party candidate. Bridges deducts those five votes from the final tally, giving Gregoire the final and official 133-vote margin of victory. Bridges refused Republicans’ demands to subtract what they called “invalid votes” from the statistical totals of vote tallies, and to statistically refigure the votes. Such an action would constitute the worst kind of judicial activism, Bridges says. As a result, “The court concludes that the election contest petition should be dismissed and the certification of Miss Gregoire as governor confirmed.” State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt says: “It’s a huge victory. But the centerpiece was that the Republicans never had a case. They need to drop their case so the state can get on with its important business. They have shown that they will spend anything, they will say anything, and they will do anything to tear down Christine, and it’s time for that to stop.” Later in the day, Rossi says he will not appeal the ruling to the Washington Supreme Court: “With today’s decision, and because of the political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest,” he says. Bridges says that if the election process is flawed, it is up to the state legislature to fix it, not the courts. (Roberts 6/5/2005; Borders et al. v. King County et al. 6/6/2005; Argetsinger 6/7/2005; HistoryLink (.org) 6/7/2005)


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