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)

Friday, March 11, 2005

More puzzle pieces divulged by King County elections office

Now that King County is beginning to release public records that show some of what they did during their canvassing of the votes in the last general election, perhaps some things will become a little more clear.

At Sound Politics, Stefan Sharkansky posted digital images of a poll book cover sheet and a ballot accountability report from two different Bothell precincts. (Unfortunately, he didn't post both these documents from the same precinct, so some of the entries on them are as yet undecipherable. With both from one precinct, it may be possible to understand what was being done for what reasons and at what time.)

While it’s too early to say for sure what these two documents say about the numbers of ballots and eligible voters who cast ballots at the polling place, it is possible to say with reasonable certainty that King County’s precinct election officers did not comply with RCW 29A.44.280.

The image of the ballot accountability form used for Bothell Precinct 01-3271 shows no place for the precinct officers to record the number of signatures in the poll book and compare that number to the number of ballots issued.

This means there is no documentary evidence showing that anyone counted the signatures in those poll books as required by state law on election night after closing the polling places.

Instead, the precinct officers relied on their ballot stub numbers to determine how many ballots had been issued. The ballot accountability form simply directed them to look to see what number was on the first ballot in the stack of unused ballots.

On election night, then, the precinct election officers simply looked to see if the number of ballots no longer in the stack (assuming they had been kept in numerical order) matched the total number of spoiled ballots, regular ballots inserted into the voting machine and provisional ballots sealed into envelopes later verification. This process might tell you whether you had lost some ballots, but it wouldn't tell you whether the voters who received each of those ballots could be identified.

Sometime later, King County elections office personnel apparently did make some effort to determine how many signatures were in the poll books. The image of the cover sheet on the poll book for Bothell Precinct 01-0254 shows an area in the lower right-hand side that is labeled “For Office Use Only” and that contains some handwritten information about numbers of ballots and signatures.

According to a blog called, King County did the required reconciliation of signatures in poll books and ballots issued at polling places. Indeed, David (“Goldy”) Goldstein seems to be the first person to reveal to the “blogosphere” the presence of a “big binder” that contains ballot reconciliation information. (To Goldy’s credit, it only took a little push to get him to stop parroting the party line for a moment and go looking for evidence that the signatures and ballots might reconcile. With his left-wing “credentials” he was pretty quickly able to find out more about King County’s canvassing process.)

Goldy quoted a portion of an e-mail from Dean Logan which indicates that there was some sort of reconciliation effort, but notice that the “20+ canvassing crew members” were described as working with the data from the poll workers – which, as noted above, didn’t include a count of the signatures in the poll books:
Regarding the precinct/poll site reconciliation process, this is one of the upfront processes I have spoken about. We employ a canvassing crew that goes through the reconciliation worksheets in the poll books and compares the data to the precinct/poll site vote totals after Election Day. The 20+ canvassing crew members compare the totals generated from the vote tabulation system to the data provided by the poll workers. Where there is a discrepancy noted in this process, we “zero out” the vote totals for that location, retrieve the ballots (from sealed containers secured by the poll workers at the closing of the polls) and re-run those precincts. The crews worked 10-hour days, seven days a week in this effort.

Additionally, a notebook is maintained that tracks the count of signatures in the poll books, number of provisional ballots cast/submitted, number of absentee ballots returned at the polls, etc.

Note also that the last part of this quoted statement from Logan does mention “the count of signatures in the poll books” – and the information is apparently in that “big binder.”

The cover sheet for Bothell Precinct 01-0254 contains one handwritten notation which recorded the result of scanning bar codes next to signatures in the poll book: “WANDA 171.” This means (based on the “WANDA” terminology which appears to be in common use to refer to the “wand” that is used to scan bar codes) that someone scanned the bar codes and found that the book contained 171 signatures.

So, it’s obvious that someone sometime scanned those bar codes in the poll book – but didn’t include in the notation on the poll book cover sheet the date the bar codes were scanned.

Perhaps the “big binder” will indicate whether King County knew, or could have known with reasonable effort, what discrepancies existed at the precinct or polling place level between the numbers of signatures in polling books and the number of ballots cast and counted. Then, we might get to the next question before the election contest finally is decided in court: What was disclosed to the canvassing board members before they certified the election returns as "a full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast" in the election?


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