Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Did they or didn't they do the reconciliation?

Sam Reed made an interesting statement during the “chat session” hosted by The Olympian from 3:00 to 4:00 P.M. today.

As previously discussed, the reported discrepancies between the numbers of ballots and numbers of voters who participated in the election raise a question, but don’t answer it.

If the discrepancies are real, rather than merely the results of shoddy work in updating the voter registration database to state the date of the last election that each voter participated in, then they indicate that illegitimate ballots got into the vote count and perhaps some legitimate ballots were removed and hidden or destroyed.

Reed acknowledged that discrepancies do indeed raise a question about the integrity of the election, but also noted that the records of the pre-certification process should be the basis for answering the question.

That was surprising only to the extent that Reed is the first official who has said what records should be looked at to answer the question. (Logan in King County never mentions the possibility that such records even exist, much less claims that those records prove his elections office ran a clean election.)

Here was the surprising thing Reed said (emphasis added):

Vicky, Federal Way: Do you believe that we should have a law requiring precincts, counties and the entire state to reconcile the number of ballot so that the number of participating voters matches the number of cast ballots?

Reed: Yes. The Secretary of State's office always does require they balance the number of ballots cast with the number counted and rejected. That's very important for the integrity of the election, to avoid ballot box stuffing or ditching ballots. When we conduct audits, we look for that and have cited counties for that.

We are still looking at King County about that. We are looking at how serious the problems could be. Because the confusion in King County is the fact that they can't match these ballots with their voter registration list and those they've credited with voting, and that's a separate issue from the last question asked. That's what we require. What I don't know for sure is whether King County has done the first, but it sounds like they have, believe it or not. They've been able to balance the number of ballots cast in each precinct, and the total as well.
Compare that to the press release yesterday from the Washington State Republican Party:

Logan was unable to answer a question from Councilman Bob Ferguson about discrepancies between ballots counted and people credited with voting in individual precincts. Logan further claimed that the 1,800-vote discrepancy between ballots counted and people credited with voting was no big deal, and dismissed suggestions that he should make an effort to keep felons from illegally registering to vote.

The Washington State Republican Party has been able to determine those numbers based on the data provided by Logan’s own elections department:

* There were 5,845 more ballots than voters in 1,318 precincts;

* There were 3,751 more voters than ballots in 1,011 precincts;

* There were a total of 9,596 discrepancies in 2,329 precincts.
So, did they or didn’t they reconcile the number of voters who participated in the election and the number of ballots on which the votes were counted?

Reed may be saying that the ballot accountability forms prepared by the polling place officials on election night can be reconciled, but that wouldn’t answer the question whether the forms accurately stated the number of voters in the poll books.

But, if those ballot accountability forms agree with the ballot totals in the vote count, it would at least indicate that no illegitimate ballots were introduced into the count at the counting centers long after the close of the polls.

Perhaps we will see when the evidence is offered in court.

5 Comments:

Blogger chew_2 said...

Micajah,

Thanks for your extended explanations over at horsesass.

Ae you going to credit Republican press releases - it's all propaganda and spin. It's going to be very hard to extract the truefacts from them. LOL.

I doubt the GOP has gotten access to the precinct/polling level reconciliation preports. Isn't it likely their claims are from the aggregate (sharkansky type) data.

Reed's comment are rather cryptic. He implies he doesn't know for sure whether King did the election night matching (although I would think he assumes so), then seems to say most everything matched. If so, is King in the clear, even though the later reconciliation doesn't match?

Another point. I've read reports that some counties (Snohomish?) weren't aware of the emergency reg. requiring precertification reconciliation efforts. This was the first election that it was imposed. Do you know if King was aware of the reg.?


In any case, I've come back to the opinion that its very unlike a court would or could decertify an election based on failing to adhere to that reg.

February 15, 2005 9:45 PM  
Blogger Micajah said...

chew2,

You're welcome!

I don't know what records the GOP looked at to arrive at their claims about the apparent discrepancies.

If they aren't counting signatures in those poll books and comparing them to the ballot accountability forms and ballot counts from the vote tallying reports precinct by precinct (or polling place by polling place), I think they're in trouble.

The poll books are public records, and I think the ballot accountability forms also are public records. So the petitioners can examine them under the supervision of the county elections office.

But, I haven't seen anything that hints that the petitioners have examined those records. More likely, they have been doing something like Sharkansky has done, working from the precinct canvass reports that show how many ballots and votes were counted in each precinct and comparing that to the list of voters provided by King County (which, of course, doesn't match the number of ballots -- but isn't the source document they need to be looking at).

I don't know what the counties were generally doing before those emergency rules were issued in August, but I would bet that most counties were doing something like what was in those rules. Usually, that kind of rule would be based on experience, since it was being issued to impose some kind of uniformity (I think) rather than to dream up something entirely new.

Of course, some counties forget how "we've always done it" and never read the laws, so might not have done anything sensible. (For example, in my county, their written instructions to poll workers didn't tell the workers that their first task after closing the polls is to tear up and secure the unused ballots, and then later bring them back to the auditor's office along with everything else -- even though that requirement has been in the law for years. They were simply told to "remove them from the table" before opening the ballot box. After they finished everything else, they were to put them into the empty ballot box and leave them at the polling place when they departed. That's an invitation to disaster, and it's stupid, and it's a violation of the RCW and WAC. But that's what they were doing.)

You're right: Reed's comments really were cryptic. He said he's not sure, but the rest of his statement indicates he's got some factual basis for thinking that King County did reconcile their ballots and voters. (If it was done, I think it would have been a reconciliation based on those ballot accountability forms that contained the polling place workers' count of signatures and ballots. I think a gap in that procedure is the absence of any double-check to see if those workers put accurate info about the number of signatures on those forms.)

As for noncompliance with those emergency rules, I think it wouldn't matter to the court unless the failure to comply was shown to be accompanied by the very thing those rules were meant to prevent -- lots of ballots in the tallying process that don't belong there, because they cannot be shown to have appeared among the valid ballots in a legitimate way.

In other words, if the petitioners can go over the original poll books and ballot accountability forms and show that there were a few thousand ballots that seem to have appeared out of nowhere, it would be apparent neglect -- and if the county also failed to comply with the rules, it would be obvious neglect.

Snohomish County replied to EFFWA's public records request for the reports of any discrepancies found in the reconciliation process by saying they couldn't find the WAC reg's cited by EFFWA, so didn't have any records that pertained to that part of the request. EFFWA apparently cited the WAC number of the emergency rules, but didn't also tell Snohomish County where to find those rules in the Washington State Register.

So, Snohomish County might have done something like the reconciliation required by the rules (and maybe even identical), but the people answering EFFWA's request didn't recognize the rule by its WAC number and just said they didn't have any such records.

The online WAC was last updated in July 2004 at the time, so it didn't have the August rules. I haven't checked recently to see if it has been updated since then. (The emergency rules were effective for 120 days according to "torridjoe" so they may never show up in the online or print version. They are to be issued as permanent rules later his month.) If the Snohomish people looked in their print version of the WAC and online, they wouldn't have found the WAC sections cited by EFFWA.

February 15, 2005 11:03 PM  
Blogger chew_2 said...

Micajah,

You said:

"As for noncompliance with those emergency rules, I think it wouldn't matter to the court unless the failure to comply was shown to be accompanied by the very thing those rules were meant to prevent -- lots of ballots in the tallying process that don't belong there, because they cannot be shown to have appeared among the valid ballots in a legitimate way."

In order to constitute grounds for an election contest, any official misconduct must have been such as to change the election. It appears to me unlikely that the failure to complete any of these post election reconciliations could have altered the results. Its not the reports or lack thereof which permitted any improper votes.

The only example thatI can think of is if all the overvotes are now shown to be in one or two precincts. Then maybe one can argue, speculatively, that a proper reconciliation would have revealed that and the election officials could have taken some corrective action prior to certification like ...? throwing out the precinct results.

Now the variance results of these reconciliation efforts may be some (weak) evidence that improper votes were cast, although without more its just as likely that the variance was the result of scanning or other human error, and could be probative in that way.



One other question re: absentees. Are they recorded as registered in a particular precinct and are the votes credited to that precinct?

February 16, 2005 11:44 AM  
Blogger Micajah said...

chew2,

Whether the courts hold that the petitioners must prove that illegitimate votes did change the outcome or could have changed the outcome, I think we are in agreement that a few extra ballots in many different polling places may not be enough to prevail.

I don't know what would happen if the petitioners could show that lots of extra ballots showed up in only a few ballot boxes. It wouldn't seem like innocent mistakes in that situation.

If 3 or 4 ballots appeared in most of the ballot boxes, it would probably not be looked upon as very strong evidence of significant neglect.

If a county not only had lots of extra ballots in a handful of polling places, but also didn't do anything resembling a proper reconciliation that would have revealed the problem, then it seems the petitioners would have a better chance of prevailing.

Then, there would be neglect at the polling places (assuming it's not fraud) and neglect that kept the canvassing board from trying to correct the errors before certifying the returns. It seems the court would have something like a clean slate to try to figure out what is appropriate, since the canvassing board's certification would have been an essentially empty gesture.

But, we'll have to wait and see how the evidence turns out, assuming it finally gets to trial. I noticed that this Friday's hearing seems to be nothing more than establishing what the judge really meant as he spoke extemporaneously from the bench on Feb. 4 and to set a date for trial. If the judge takes a hard line on the required elements of proof and burden of proof ("did cause" not "could have caused", and "clear and convincing" or "beyond a reasonable doubt" rather than "preponderance of the evidence," and direct evidence of how the votes were cast rather than some kind of estimate of their proportions for each candidate) maybe there will be a big problem in even going forward with the case.

As for scanning errors, if they don't show via another examination of those poll books that there really aren't enough signatures to account for the ballots, then I believe we agree that the petitioners would be in a bind. Then, it would be hard to say whether the discrepancies indicated by the post-certification updates of voter records were real discrepancies between voters and ballots -- as opposed to errors made in scanning the poll book bar codes or some other error that made it look like there were "voterless ballots."

On the absentee ballots, here's the statute that I think controls how they are reported:

http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?fuseaction=section§ion=29A.40.120
RCW 29A.40.120
Report of count.
The absentee ballots must be reported at a minimum on a congressional and legislative district basis. Absentee ballots may be counted by congressional or legislative district or by individual precinct, except as required under RCW 29A.60.230(2).

These returns must be added to the total of the votes cast at the polling places.
[2003 c 111 § 1012. Prior: 2001 c 241 § 11; 1990 c 262 § 2; 1987 c 346 § 15; 1974 ex.s. c 73 § 2; 1965 c 9 § 29.36.070; prior: 1955 c 50 § 3; prior: 1933 ex.s. c 41 § 5, part; 1921 c 143 § 6, part; 1917 c 159 § 4, part; 1915 c 189 § 4, part; RRS § 5285, part. Formerly RCW 29.36.320, 29.36.070.]

It seems to allow the counties to report the absentee votes in big groups -- just so long as their returns show who won congressional and state legislative offices.

I don't know how many counties break down their absentees by precinct. There once was a problem created by having so few absentee voters in some precincts that they had to combine the precincts for the report, so as to protect the secrecy of the ballots cast by the few in any precinct.

Now, the vast majority of votes are cast by absentee ballot, so I imagine the counties report them in whatever way makes it easier for them to keep track of what's going on.

For example, school levy elections have a turnout requirement for validation, so it's necessary to know the turnout from the previous general election in the precincts within the school district. The counties may, then, find that it's easier to report absentees by precinct, rather than lumping them together and later splitting them up again to answer questions like the required turnout for the ensuing levy elections.

February 16, 2005 1:12 PM  
Blogger recallreed blog said...

Back way when, you posted on the RecallReed site ... some well thought out questions . Tried to respond, but you know it all better.

Chris Vance and the GOP squandered $2.5 million on their trial in Wenatchee. Powerfull attorney team. Zero results. An embarrasment. Ridiculous ploy.

RecallReed on the other hand meant what it said and said what it mean. The Washington State Supreme Court is hearing our appeal on November 3, 2005, EN BANC.

If you are still interested in getting your questions answered, you can go on the WWW and have all of them answered. The Supreme Court will decide: not Stefan, not you, not Vance, not the GOP, not Rossi...

At 7:42 AM, Micajah said...
I'll try for the third time. Since you allow the posting of comments on this blog, I figure there's a slim chance that you read them.

What law gives the secretary of state the authority and responsibility to "certify" the election of a governor?

I notice that in numbers 7 and 8 of your petition, there is a difference other than the wording and subject of the two. One cites a statute which gave the SecState responsibility and authority to issue regulations, but the other cites no law whatsoever:

7. Failed to perform rule making duties detailed in RCW 29A.O4.610.
8. Certified the November 2, 2004 election knowing that election laws and regulations had been violated.


What law do you think gives the secretary of state the authority and responsibility to "certify" the election of a governor?

October 02, 2005 10:11 AM  

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