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)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Senators, please amend SSB 5499 section 17

Substitute Senate Bill 5499 was reported out of the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee on February 17 and referred to the Rules Committee.

No floor amendment is yet pending, but there needs to be one.

Calling all Republican senators: Is there one of you who can see and act upon the need to amend section 17 of SSB 5499?

SSB 5499 may be in the group of bills which will be brought to the floor for a vote “soon” according to The Seattle Times:

A package of bills expected to go to the Senate floor soon would hold the primary a month earlier so counties would have more time to get out general-election ballots.

It also would impose statewide standards for handling ballots, require first-time voters to produce identification at the polls, require regular audits of county election departments and require a paper trail for touch-screen voting machines such as those used in Snohomish and Yakima counties.

Another Senate bill would make it easier for counties to choose to conduct their elections entirely by mail.

SSB 5499 contains a new section which does nothing to ensure proper certification of election returns.

The new section would require a report long after certification of election returns – and long after the time for filing an election contest has passed.

This new section’s report is not just worthless, it is an apparently cynical effort to make it appear that election laws are being reformed when in fact they are not.

County canvassing boards are supposed to certify the accuracy of the auditor’s abstract of votes, meaning that the vote totals being reported are true and accurate statements of the numbers of legitimate votes cast and counted.

This new section in SSB 5499 needs to be amended by changing the beginning phrase, “No later than thirty days after final certification,” to this phrase: “Prior to certification of the official election returns by the canvassing board.”

NEW SECTION. Sec. 17 A new section is added to chapter 29A.60 RCW to read as follows: No later than thirty days after final certification, the county auditor shall prepare and make publicly available at the auditor's office or on the auditor's web site, an election reconciliation report that discloses, at a minimum, the following information: The number of ballots counted; the number of voters credited with voting; the number of provisional ballots issued; the number of provisional ballots counted; the number of provisional ballots rejected; the number of absentee ballots issued; the number of absentee ballots counted; the number of absentee ballots rejected; the number of federal write-in ballots counted; the number of ballots sent to overseas voters and the number of such ballots that were counted; and any other information the auditor determines to be necessary to the process of reconciling the number of votes counted with the number of voters credited with voting.

The counties are already required to credit voters with having participated in the election before the counties certify their official election returns.

They have no way of preventing people from voting more than once in an election unless they credit voters with having participated; so the requirement is not only a legal requirement, it is a requirement based in necessity and common sense.

The thing that is missing from the counties’ election returns is a public statement which would reveal material discrepancies which the counties have up to now ignored or hidden.

Here is where the law now says voters must be credited with having voted prior to the certification of the official election returns:

At the polling places, it’s in the poll books as required by RCW 29A.44.231.

For absentee ballots, it’s in the computerized voter registration database as required by RCW 29A.60.180.

Unfortunately, RCW 29A.60.230 doesn’t now require that the official election returns state the number of voters credited with voting. Instead the returns contain a virtually meaningless number – the number of registered voters in the county.

There is never a turnout of all the registered voters, so it means nothing to be told that the number of ballots is less than the number of registered voters.

What we need to know is whether there are more ballots on which the votes were counted than there were voters known to have cast ballots.

Since the counties are already required by law to credit voters with voting before certifying their returns, reform the law to require that the counties include the number of voters credited with voting in their official returns.

A certificate of election might still be issued despite material discrepancies in the official election returns, but at least we would all have a chance to know what discrepancies are being ignored in the issuance of such a certificate of election.


Post a Comment

<< Home