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)

Saturday, April 30, 2005

173 of 785 clearly illegitimate provisional ballots found in King County's vote tabulation

According to the deposition of Bill Huennekens, superintendent of elections for King County, their continued efforts to figure out how many of the illegitimate ballots in polling place ballot boxes were provisional ballots have resulted in finding evidence of 437 in addition to the 348 reported in January.

That’s a total of 785 – and it isn’t necessarily the final total. Huennekens testified that they looked at polling places with discrepancies greater than one or two ballots, so there could be more provisional ballots that were unlawfully inserted into the ballot boxes at the other polling places.

Of those 437, King County has been able to identify 355 people who were registered voters and apparently unlawfully inserted their provisional ballots into the ballot boxes.

That leaves 82 of the 437 which wouldn’t have been accepted as valid ballots, if the 437 ballots had been cast as required by the law – that is, in sealed, signed envelopes for later verification that the person casting the ballot was an eligible voter.

Of the 348 illegally cast provisional ballots admitted by Dean Logan in January, King County had identified 252 people who were registered voters, who had not voted more than once, and who probably were among the people who broke the law by inserting their provisional ballots into the ballot boxes.

That left 91 of the 348 ballots which wouldn’t have been accepted as valid ballots, if the 348 ballots had been cast as required by law. (One ballot was noted as “name change” on their spreadsheet. Perhaps they would have figured out that the voter’s name had changed and accepted that ballot – if it had been lawfully cast. So, I have omitted it from the total of ballots which wouldn't have been accepted. King County simply omitted 4 of the 348 from their spreadsheet, so I haven't included them in the total either.)

The arithmetic puts the number of clearly illegitimate provisional ballots illegally cast by ineligible voters at 173.

That’s above the Pretender’s purported margin of victory (129), so naturally The Seattle Times found the arithmetic too difficult to get right:

Republicans have cited 785 mishandled provisional ballots in King County, and of those, 122 were cast by people not properly registered.

Maybe reporting a number higher than 129 would be too painful for them to bear.

Their reporter – or the editor, if an editorial change was made – apparently chose the figure from King County’s spreadsheet which stated the number of ballots cast by people who had been credited with voting already (40). Added to the 82 among the newly announced 437 which were cast by ineligible voters, the sum is 122.

The reporter's euphemism for "unlawfully cast provisional ballots" is nice: "mishandled provisional ballots." They weren't mishandled: They were inserted into the vote-counting machines in violation of the laws enacted to ensure the validity of each vote counted.

The reporter also chose a delicate way of describing the ineligible voters: "people not properly registered." They weren't registered voters. Or, if they were registered, they were voting more than once. That's a violation of the laws enacted to protect the integrity of our election process.

P.S. -- Huennekens claimed during the deposition not to know what "validity of each vote" meant, and couldn't bring himself to admit that the canvassing process is vital to ensuring the integrity of our elections. He is a graduate of Western Washington University, with both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in political science. I wonder what kind of politics he studied that left him unable to understand or accept the concept of a valid election.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Did they count more ballots than they had?

Did King County tabulate the votes on more provisional ballots than they legitimately had available to count?

At page 359 of Dean Logan’s April 18-19 deposition, the transcript contains this question by the Democrats’ lawyer and answer by Logan regarding the revised provisional ballot report dated January 18, 2005:

  • Q. Does either number, the total – and, again, I am looking at Exhibit 4, the Replacement Final Report, does either number, the total provisional ballots processed, or the valid ballots include all or any part of the 348 allegedly premature provisional ballots?
  • A. No. Those ballots are not included in this report. This would be a report of the provisional ballots that were administered properly at the polling places.

So far, Dean Logan has not claimed to know how many provisional ballots were issued by King County.

In the spreadsheet summary of the pre-certification polling place ballot reconciliation efforts that Logan released on March 11, the number of provisional ballots issued by King County is 31,765. The summary contains errors, so this total cannot be treated as accurate.

Using that total as an approximate number of provisional ballots issued at polling places on November 2, 2004, it appears that they counted the votes on 780 to 1,103 more provisional ballots than they could have legitimately had in their possession.

The county’s false provisional ballot report of November 17, 2004, stated that 1,236 provisional ballots were forwarded to King County by the auditors of other counties. The revised January 18, 2005, report didn’t state how many ballots were received from other counties. (Logan testified that the part of the database from which the report was drawn didn’t identify which ballots came from other counties.)

Since the November 17 provisional ballot report was false in many respects, this 1,236 can only be treated as an approximation of the number of provisional ballots cast in other counties and sent to King County for possible validation and counting.

The county’s false November provisional ballot report also stated that 877 provisional ballots issued and cast in King County were forwarded to other counties, while the revised January 18, 2005, report stated that 554 were forwarded from King County to other counties.

As is usually the case with King County data, the number of provisional ballots forwarded to other counties must be treated as an approximation. In this case, there are essentially two different approximations.

The January report stated that 32,996 provisional ballots were “processed.” As Logan testified, this total is the number of ballots which were “properly” cast, in the sense that they were supposedly sealed in signed envelopes at the polling places for later validation rather than unlawfully inserted into the Accuvote machines and tabulated without verification of the voters’ eligibility to vote.

According to The Seattle Times, at least 785 provisional ballots were issued at King County polling places and unlawfully inserted into the ballot boxes via the Accuvote machines.

Using these approximate numbers, simple arithmetic indicates that King County counted the votes on more provisional ballots than they legitimately had available for tabulation.

31,765 issued
+1,236 received from other counties
33,001 available (close to the 32,996 “processed”)
- 554 sent to other counties (or 877 in the 11/17 report)
32,447 still available
- 785 put into Accuvote machines
31,662 still available
-4,432 invalid ballots (1/18/05 report)
27,230 available to be counted

28,010 reported valid and counted (1/18/05 report)
-27,230 available to be counted
.......780 more were counted than were available to be counted

If there really were 877 sent to other counties, then only 26,907 were available to be counted; yet they counted 1,103 more than that.

It sure would be nice to have more accurate totals for provisional ballots issued, received from other counties, and forwarded to other counties.

The apparent difference between the approximate number of ballots legitimately available for tabulation and the number reportedly tabulated is large enough that it may be the result of counting some ballots more than once or counting ballots that weren’t legitimately in the counting process – rather than being the result of inaccurate data.

Of course, knowing how many ballots you legitimately have is the only way to know if you have counted them all, and counted them only once each. (Logan denies that knowing the total number of ballots, much less reconciling that number with the total number of legitimate voters, is a part of properly conducting an election.)

The number of provisional ballots issued could be determined with reasonable certainty from the poll books.

The number received from other counties could be determined from copies of the correspondence that transmitted those ballots to King County.

The toughest number to obtain would be the total for ballots forwarded to other counties by King County. It is unlikely that King County can document that number with any certainty. Asking 38 other counties for their documentation of ballots received from King County may be the only way to figure it out.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

If Logan admits it, it is indisputable

In questioning Dean Logan about the discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of ballots inserted into the ballot boxes via the Accuvote machines, Mr. Hamilton (representing the Democrats) asked whether such a discrepancy could have resulted because some people brought absentee ballots into the polling places and inserted them into the machines.

Logan agreed that, if the ballots were from precincts that voted at that polling place, the machine would accept those absentee ballots. The result would have been more ballots in the ballot box than voters who cast regular polling place ballots.

Then, much to my surprise, the Democrats’ lawyer asked whether there were absentee ballots mixed in with polling place ballots during the manual recount in December.

At pages 419 and 420 of Logan’s deposition is this exchange:

Q. In fact, during the hand recount, absentee ballots turned up with the poll ballots during the recount, correct?
A. I believe there were some instances of that, but I don’t know that that necessarily correlates to the scenario you’re talking about, and that more likely happened in the sorting of the ballots in preparation for the recount.
Q. You don’t have any evidence that the absentee ballots were inserted during the sorting with the poll ballots, do you? All you know is that absentee ballots turned up intermixed with the poll ballots during the hand recount?
A. There were instances of that, yes.

Never mind the lack of evidence for Logan’s implausible explanation for the presence of those absentee ballots among the polling place ballots, note that such an error in the sorting of the ballots in preparation for the manual recount would have reduced the number of absentee ballots counted during the recount.

There was no such reduction in the number of absentee ballots counted. The number rose each time King County counted. (The number of polling place ballots also rose each time.)

Since Logan admitted that there were instances of absentee ballots among the polling place ballots, it seems clear that this is a demonstrable fact which he cannot dispute.

Since absentee ballots are clearly distinguishable from polling place ballots by simply looking at them, it is clear that those absentee ballots could have – and should have – been removed and rejected as invalid ballots.

There was no way to identify the persons who put those absentee ballots into the Accuvote machines, therefore they were clearly not valid ballots.

I wonder how many there were. (I don’t wonder why they weren’t taken out and rejected. Logan’s gang was desperate for every ballot they could include in the vote tabulation. They weren’t going to look for folded provisional ballots and absentee ballots in the ballot boxes for precincts in which they knew there were more ballots than the number of regular ballots issued.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What does it mean to certify the returns?

Dean Logan’s deposition makes plain, if it wasn’t already obvious, that Logan doesn’t understand (or won’t admit to understanding) the legal duty of the canvassing board and of Logan as chief elections officer for King County.

The law requires Logan or his designee to take an oath before the board begins to canvass the returns, “attesting to the authenticity of the information presented to the canvassing board.” The oath must be in writing, and a copy must be part of the official canvass report.

After that oath is administered, “[t]he county canvassing board shall proceed to verify the results from the precincts and the absentee ballots.”

“Verify” means to determine the true results of the election.

Logan’s principal task as the equivalent of a county auditor is to “produce cumulative and precinct returns for each primary and election and deliver them to the canvassing board for verification and certification.”

Based on the information provided by Logan, the canvassing board must first determine whether the cumulative and precinct returns are true, and then “execute a certificate of the results of the primary or election signed by all members of the board or their designees.”

The wording of the certificate required by law plainly states the conclusion of the board, assuming they have verified the accuracy of the returns presented by Logan:
Upon completion of the verification of the auditor's abstract of votes and the documentation of any corrective action taken, the county canvassing board shall sign a certification that the abstract is a full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast for the issues and offices listed thereon.

On page 98 of the deposition transcript, Logan was asked: “What does it mean to certify the returns?”

In an answer that rambled on about various tasks involved in canvassing the returns, Logan finally stated this as the meaning of certifying the returns:

...and then the three of us sign a certificate, a certification that is essentially making public the record of vote totals for King County....

That’s it—just make the vote totals public. Never mind the fact that the vote totals were already a matter of public record as soon as the votes on each group of ballots were tabulated. Just note that Logan said absolutely nothing about determining whether the vote totals on his reports were a “full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast.”

He doesn’t think the board has a legal duty to determine whether the returns are true before certifying that they are true. That’s why it didn’t bother him when the so-called certificate didn’t say the abstract of votes was “a full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast.” He didn’t think that was his job or the duty of the board.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Logan's own words -- "I don't know...anything...."

Dean Logan doesn't know anything about the legal duty of the canvassing board.

At page 124 of his deposition, he responded to a question which asked whether he would have certified the election returns had he known about the hundreds of illegal votes cast by felons who were disqualified from voting.

His answer revealed that he still believes what he said to the King County Council on March 14, i.e., that the canvassing board has no choice but to certify the returns by the deadline.

Okay. I guess, first, my understanding is that certification of the election is not optional on the part of the canvassing board, that it’s statutorily required. And that, in fact, that the canvassing board would be guilty of a misdemeanor if we failed to do that. Secondly, speaking for myself as one of the three members of the canvassing board, I don’t know of any process of the canvassing on [sic: “or”?] certification process that would give me the authority to – to do anything beyond that.”

It is true that there is a deadline, but it is also true that the canvassing board must first verify that the abstract of votes prepared by the county elections office is "a full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast" before certifying that it is so.

It is true that failure to certify the returns is a crime, but only if the returns can be known "with reasonable certainty."

The language of the pertinent statute isn't at all unclear:

The county canvassing board shall proceed to verify the results from the precincts and the absentee ballots. The board shall execute a certificate of the results of the primary or election signed by all members of the board or their designees. Failure to certify the returns, if they can be ascertained with reasonable certainty, is a crime under RCW 29A.84.720. (Emphasis added.)

First, verify that the results reported by Logan's personnel are true, then certify that they are true -- if the truth can be ascertained with reasonable certainty.

It's little wonder that things are such a mess under Logan's leadership. So much of what he knows is simply not correct.

It's also apparent that Logan would never have noticed the deficiency in the so-called certificate signed by the canvassing board, since he did not (and still does not) understand that it is the job of the canvassing board to determine how many legitimate votes were cast for each candidate and issue on the ballot.

Monday, April 25, 2005

King County didn't certify their returns

Having now seen a copy of a certificate signed in December 2000 by the King County canvassing board, I see that the language used by Logan and the board in November 2004 isn’t evidence of guilty knowledge. (Thanks to Stefan Sharkansky of Sound Politics for finding that old document.)

The deficient certificate of King County’s canvassing board is instead evidence of a complete lack of knowledge of the legal duty of the canvassing board.

Rather than verify that the abstract of votes was a “full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast” as the law required of them, they simply stated that the abstract was a true copy of itself.

Here is the language used after the mandatory recount in 2000, when Robert Bruce held the office now occupied by Dean Logan:

The undersigned officers...hereby certify that this is a full, true and correct copy of the Mandatory Recount of votes cast.... Witness our hands and official seal this 1st Day of December, 2000.

Here is the virtually identical language used after the mandatory recount in 2004, with Dean Logan at the helm:

The undersigned officers...hereby certify that this is a full, true and correct copy of the Mandatory Recount for the office of Governor.... Witness our hands and official seal this 24th day of November, 2004.

Except for the omission of the words “of votes cast” they are essentially the same.

Probably, the initial purported certification of the general election returns in 2000 was also virtually identical to the language of the non-certification on November 17, 2004.

King County simply did what they’ve “always” done – and it was always done wrong before, as is usually the case with bureaucrats who copy what they see others do rather than read the laws that they are supposed to implement.

So, does it matter that the King County canvassing board (and probably others, too) didn’t certify that the abstract prepared by their chief election officer was a full, true and correct representation of the votes cast? Probably not, since the legislature accepted their deficient election returns and issued the certificate of election to the Pretender anyway.

It might make for an interesting few moments of argument at the trial – when someone asserts that the court should presume that the canvassing board performed its legal duties properly. Since they didn’t state in their certificate that they performed the duty required of them, their own deficient certificate rebuts the presumption.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Regional or Partisan Divide in House?

From the news reports, the vote on the gas tax yesterday in the House involved some partisan gamesmanship mixed in with regional conflict. The Democrats made it clear they didn't want to run for re-election as the party of the gas tax increase. They wanted a substantial number of Republicans to join them in voting "yes," so several members of the Democratic caucus could vote "no."

The tax increase was rejected then, but today it passed in the House 54 "yeas" to 43 "nays."

The partisan divide may be merely a coincidence, but it could also be evidence of some deals made to cover Democrats during the next election. Of the 55 Democrats, 12 voted "no." Of the 43 Republicans, 11 voted "yes," and one was excused from the vote. That's an almost even swap between the parties.

Hidden somewhere in that even swap was probably a deal or two. I wonder what it was worth to get a Republican to vote "yes," so a Democrat who was unsure of re-election could avoid voting "yes."

Of course, there were some representatives who genuinely disagreed and voted "no" because of the way the new revenue would be spent. When their constituents must pay the added tax but won't get any direct benefit, it is no doubt hard to vote "yes."

Perhaps over time we'll find out who voted "no" for regional reasons and who did it for purely partisan reasons.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Logan's guilty knowledge: Hidden in plain sight?

(Update April 25, 2005: The King County "certification" posted at Sound Politics is indeed the same as what was sent to the Secretary of State's office. It may even be similar to what King County has used in the past. So, the answer to the questions at the end of this entry may well be: Dean Logan doesn't know beans about election laws. The failure to comply with the law and certify that the abstract of votes was a true representation of the votes cast may be nothing more than the result of sheer ignorance. That raises another couple of questions: Has King County's canvassing board done anything amounting to a certification of their election returns for the last general election, and does anyone give a tinker's damn whether they have?)

Sometimes it’s amazing what insights one can gain from looking at the original documents. Things can be hidden in plain sight which may only be discerned with hindsight.

Stefan Sharkansky has posted at Sound Politics a copy of the King County canvassing board’s November 17, 2004, “certification” of the county’s election returns.

A perusal of the certification and Logan’s signed oath reveals that their very form may hint that the participants knew they were “certifying” election returns which did not accurately state the number of legitimate votes cast in King County.

Logan didn’t swear to anything other than passing along to the canvassing board the garbage handed to him.

The canvassing board simply certified that their official election returns were the same as the garbage handed to them by Logan.

Logan’s oath, odd as it may seem, is in accord with a narrow, literal interpretation of the law.

As the equivalent of a county auditor, Logan was required to swear to the “authenticity of the information presented to the canvassing board.”

Before canvassing the returns of a primary or election, the chair of the county legislative authority or the chair's designee shall administer an oath to the county auditor or the auditor's designee attesting to the authenticity of the information presented to the canvassing board. (Emphasis added.)

“Authenticity” can be interpreted to mean only that the information being passed along by Logan wasn’t changed by Logan – that it is the same as what was handed to Logan by his subordinates and precinct officers.

Note the wording of Logan’s oath:

“I solemnly swear that the returns of the State General Election held on November 2, 2004, in King County, State of Washington, have been in no way altered by additions or erasures and that they are the same as when they were deposited in my office.” (Emphasis added.)

Who “deposited” them in Logan’s office? Was it "the little people" who came during the night and prepared everything for Logan and his subordinates?

Does Logan really believe his responsibility extended only to passing along what was “deposited” in his office without checking to see if it was true?

Unlike Logan’s oath, the canvassing board’s certification doesn’t appear to be in accord with the law.

The board members were supposed to certify that the abstract was a “full, true and correct representation of the votes cast,” but they only certified that the garbage handed to them was the same as the garbage they were passing off as the official county election returns.

The duty of the canvassing board is stated in both statute and regulation.

  • RCW 29A.60.190 requires: “...on the fifteenth day after a general election, the county canvassing board shall complete the canvass and certify the results.”
  • Rather than simply certify that the official returns are the same as the garbage handed to them by the auditor, the canvassing board must determine whether the returns are true. RCW 29A.60.200 states: “The county canvassing board shall proceed to verify the results from the precincts and the absentee ballots.”
  • Only upon determining that the returns are true may the canvassing board certify the official election returns for the county. WAC 434-262-070 states: “Upon completion of the verification of the auditor's abstract of votes and the documentation of any corrective action taken, the county canvassing board shall sign a certification that the abstract is a full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast for the issues and offices listed thereon.”

The canvassing board’s certification was supposed to state that the official election returns were a “full, true and correct representation of the votes cast.” Instead, it stated: “The undersigned officers...hereby certify that this is a full, true and correct copy of the Abstract of Votes cast....”

In other words, the canvassing board ducked its responsibility to determine whether the returns correctly stated the votes cast by simply saying their returns were the same as the “Abstract of Votes” prepared by Logan (or whoever “deposited” it in Logan’s office).

Are other counties using these same apparently meaningful, but actually meaningless, forms for their auditor’s oath and canvassing board’s certification of election returns?

Did Logan and the canvassing board intentionally use forms for the oath and certification which seemed to say more than they literally said? Or did they simply not know that it was their responsibility to determine how many legitimate votes were cast on each issue and for each candidate?

Friday, April 15, 2005

How many provisional ballots were counted in King County?

Has anyone been able to reconcile the election records of King County regarding provisional ballots? King County’s elections office hasn’t.

Yesterday, Stefan Sharkansky posted at Sound Politics the spreadsheet prepared and released by King County to show what their internal records reflect about the numbers of ballots received, accepted as valid and included in the vote tabulation.

For provisional ballots, the numbers appear to be wildly different from those reported by King County in the days prior to certifying their election returns on November 17, 2004.

Of course, their January 18, 2005 revision of their November 17, 2004 provisional ballot report had already revealed quite a difference. Instead of reporting a total of 27,641 valid provisional ballots included in the vote tabulation, they reported long afterwards that 28,010 had been included in the vote count.

Not only were there 369 additional ballots in the revised report, there were 108 fewer ballots rejected because of signatures that didn’t match those on file. It appears that nothing on the reports provided to the canvassing board prior to certification of the returns after the initial vote count and the two recounts was accurate.

Now, the spreadsheet released by King County indicates that their records show that the votes on only 25,764 provisional ballots were tabulated. Not 28,010. Not 27,641. Only 25,764. (Update Nov. 16: It looks as though the 226 provisional ballots sent for duplication or enhancement were included on another page of the spreadsheet, so those 226 weren't counted among the 25,574 "total tabulated" on the sheet that supposedly shows the total of all provisional ballots. If this is correct, then 25,990 provisional ballots were included in the vote tabulation, not 25,764.)

Adding insult to injury, that 25,764 (or 25,990) exceeded the number accepted as valid ballots. According to their spreadsheet, King County's internal records show that only 25,597 provisional ballots were found to have been cast by registered voters.

A comparison of the ballot counts reported to the public during the last week before their returns were certified reveals huge differences between what they told the public and what their internal records apparently state.

Here are the numbers for provisional ballots reportedly included in the vote tabulation and the numbers of provisional ballots actually sent through the vote tabulation machines in that last week.

Date............Public report.......Internal records
Nov. 10..........1,978..................1,357
Nov. 12........10,704.................11,213
Nov. 15........12,317..................10,308
Nov. 16.........2,229...................1,647
Nov. 17.......No report................1,239

On Nov. 17, the public report stated the combined total of both provisional and absentee ballots purportedly included in the vote tabulation, namely 1,446. The number of provisional ballots wasn’t stated separately as had been done since Nov. 10.

Internal records, according to the spreadsheet, show that there were 563 absentee ballots and 1,239 provisional ballots added to the count on Nov. 17, which is a total of 1,802 – not 1,446.

The number of ballots sent through the vote tabulation machine on Nov. 17 exceeded the number reported to the public by 356. Some of that excess was made up of provisional ballots, but how much?

Dean Logan, the man who is supposedly in charge of administering elections in King County, finally admitted that he doesn’t know how many provisional ballots were issued. If asked under oath, he almost surely must also admit he doesn’t know how many were valid or how many were included in the vote tabulation.

Gregoire’s purported margin of victory is 129, plus or minus some much larger number – almost surely minus, not plus.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

It was only a little peek!

Another strange occurrence in King County's ballot processing was disclosed in The Seattle Times today.

Among the few thousand rejected provisional ballots were some ballot envelopes which had been opened and resealed with tape.

Think about it. Why open the outer and inner envelopes which contain a provisional ballot that hasn't been accepted as having been cast by a registered voter?

If it's not an accepted ballot, then it doesn't matter what is inside those envelopes: The votes on the ballot won't be included in the tabulation.

King County's spokeswoman denies that anything is irregular:

Bobbie Egan, spokeswoman for the county elections office, said the envelopes were opened under standard procedure to determine whether voters had used the ballots appropriate to their home precincts. If a validly cast provisional ballot is from a precinct other than the voter's home precinct, election officials only count votes for those races the person is eligible to vote in.

Most provisional-ballot envelopes didn't have to be opened because notations on the outside indicated what type of ballot was inside.

Egan said workers opened ballot envelopes before determining whether the votes would be counted just far enough to determine the type of ballot and resealed the envelopes with tape. The envelopes were opened in the presence of observers from both political parties, she noted.

"Procedures were followed," Egan said. "We're not hiding anything. This is no smoking gun. This is something that both parties had full knowledge of during the 15-day window after Election Day."

There should be no doubt in any reasonable person's mind that the explanation given by Egan is hogwash. (If there were political party observers who knew what was being done in their presence, they should be invited to stay home and watch soap operas come the time of the next election.)

Until the ballot has been accepted as valid, it simply doesn't matter what precinct's ballot is inside those envelopes.

Only after the ballot has been accepted must the votes on it be counted -- and then it matters if the ballot handed to the voter contains issues or candidates for which the voter isn't eligible to vote.

For example, if a voter went to a polling place in a legislative district other than the one in which the voter is registered to vote, that voter is eligible to vote for the state representative in his own district but not for someone else's representative. After the ballot is accepted as valid, only the votes for issues and candidates that the voter could lawfully cast can lawfully be counted.

So, how can the secrecy of the ballot be protected when the ballot must be examined to ensure that only the votes the voter was eligible to cast are counted?

That's easy. Leave the outer and inner envelopes sealed. Examine the signature and information on the outer envelope. If the ballot is accepted, open the outer envelope -- not the inner envelope -- and write on the outside of the inner envelope the precinct number in which the voter is registered.

At the next stage in the processing, separate the inner envelopes from the outer envelopes. Remove the outer envelopes from the area -- so no one can identify which outer envelope (with the voter's name on it) goes with which inner envelope. Then, open the inner envelopes and write the precinct number on the ballots -- so a ballot from that precinct can be substituted, if necessary, for the one issued to any particular voter.

There was no good reason to take a peek at provisional ballots before they had been verified as having been cast by eligible voters.

There was a bad reason. When looking for votes for a particular candidate in a close election, it helps to know which ballots are voted the way you want them to be voted before you accept or reject those ballots.

One of the reasons our state constitution guarantees "absolute secrecy" of the ballot is to guard against the chance that a person's ballot would be rejected based on foreknowledge of that person's votes.

Article VI, section 6 states:

All elections shall be by ballot. The legislature shall provide for such method of voting as will secure to every elector absolute secrecy in preparing and depositing his ballot.
Someone needs to educate Sheryl Moss of the Secretary of State's elections office. She is quoted in the article as stating:

Sheryl Moss, certification-and-training-program manager for the secretary of state, said neither state nor federal law prohibits opening provisional-ballot envelopes before voters' eligibility is determined.

Provisional ballots have less secrecy than other ballots, Moss said, because election workers are required to verify that the voter's votes are counted only for candidates or issues he or she is eligible to vote on.

Absentee-ballot envelopes, by contrast, may not be opened before the voter's eligibility is verified.

"I would encourage counties to maintain the secrecy of the ballot as much as they can through the whole provisional-ballot process and [take] whatever measures they need to do to preserve as much of the secrecy of the ballot as they can," Moss said, adding, "but it's not a hard and fast rule as to how you handle them."

The administrative rules may not be "hard and fast," but they do (and did) require that provisional ballots be handled in much the same way as absentee ballots -- which would include ensuring the constitutionally required absolute secrecy of the ballot:

AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending WSR 02-07-029, filed 3/12/02)

WAC 434-253-049 ((Special)) Provisional ballots--Processing. When the disposition of the ballot determines that the ballot is to be counted, the ballot shall be processed in a manner similar to an absentee ballot as provided in chapter 434-240 WAC except the outer ((special)) provisional ballot envelopes must be retained separately from the absentee ballot return envelopes. The manual inspection of the ballots as required in WAC 434-261-070 must also be carried out.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 29.04.210, 29.36.150. 02-07-029, § 434-253-049, filed 3/12/02, effective 4/12/02.] (Emphasis added.)

Moss obviously doesn't know beans about election laws. How did she get hired as "certification and training program manager" in the Secretary of State's elections division? Who put her in charge of drafting and implementing administrative regulations governing elections?

If Moss is typical of the quality of personnel available in Sam Reed's office, what good would it do to have the Secretary of State inspect the King County elections office?

Almost every rule has exceptions, but it's looking as though the Secretary of State's office has no one who is an exception to this rule: The least reliable source of information about the laws which govern a bureaucrat's job is the bureaucrat whose job is governed by those laws.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Logan denies sweeping things under the carpet

In the KOMO News report about the King County elections commission appointed by County Executive Ron Sims is this astonishing statement by Dean Logan:

The man in the eye of the storm is elections director Dean Logan. He won't quit. He welcomes an investigation.

Logan is upset by a recent criticism that King County's elections [is] the worst in the nation. "I think we are far from the worst elections operation in the nation. The fact that we are talking about these errors and not sweeping them under the carpet and pretending that they didn't occur is clear evidence of that," he said.
Okay, so somebody somewhere is worse – but what’s this stuff about “not sweeping them under the carpet”?

Logan’s gang has consistently tried to sweep things under the carpet.

  • Their November 15, 2004, ballot count report didn’t add up. As it turns out, that was because they weren’t accurately reporting anything about the numbers of provisional and absentee ballots.
  • They simply stopped reporting the number of absentee ballots received and counted on November 16 and 17.
  • The number of absentee ballots received was reported to be 566, 291 – except in a bogus “mail ballot report” submitted to the canvassing board, which had the total as 568,333.
  • The canvassing board was also given a bogus “provisional ballot summary report” which reported a total of 27,641 ballots accepted as valid and counted. In mid-January, a corrected provisional ballot report changed that total to 28,010 – after Gregoire was sworn into office.
  • Logan claimed in early January that 348 provisional ballots had been improperly inserted into the ballot boxes via the Accuvote machines. On March 11 he finally released records showing that the number was more than 664 – and there is not even a shadow of a doubt that Logan’s gang knew it in November 2004, much less January 2005. Their own notes from before November 17 show that they knew of these unlawfully cast ballots.
  • Their so-called reconciliation report in the infamous “big binder” simply adjusted the numbers to conceal the fact that hundreds of illegitimate polling place ballots were in the vote count. Even if it had been shown to the canvassing board, it would have almost certainly misled the two other members -- but Logan surely would have known it wasn't a bona fide reconciliation of ballots and voters.
  • Logan claimed that the ballots-to-voters numbers at the vast majority of polling places had been reconciled to only a one-ballot discrepancy. That was after “adjusting” the numbers to conceal the hundreds of unquestionably illegitimate ballots. Having figured out where they came from and how they got into the vote count, Logan tried to fool everyone into believing that there were only 348 spread around at 540 different polling places.
  • Logan argued endlessly that the fact that at least 1800 more ballots than voters were evidenced by his list of voters credited with voting wasn’t an indication of voting fraud. It clearly was evidence of exactly what people claimed: Logan’s gang had counted the votes on hundreds of ballots that didn’t belong in the vote count.
  • Logan has now admitted to having done so with approximately 916 polling place ballots, and we’re still waiting to see how high the number goes for absentee ballots. Logan’s gang admitted last week that they don’t know what the number is.

If it wasn't a carpet, what was Logan trying to hide these irregularities under?

King County's flawed polling place ballot reconciliation efforts

When King County’s elections office personnel attempted to reconcile ballots cast at polling places and voters credited with voting in the poll books, they made mistakes.

Humans make mistakes, but the ones made in King County weren’t all the result of human fallibility. They also resulted from an apparent absence of a standard procedure for the 20 members of Logan’s “canvassing crew” to follow.

As previously noted, the Bothell Regional Library polling place reconciliation made sense – even though the so-called reconciliation actually involved adjusting the numbers to make it appear that illegitimately cast provisional ballots weren’t a problem.

The Denny Terrace polling place is a good example of how things get messed up when a standard procedure isn’t established and followed.

Because of the errors made in reconciling ballots and voters for Denny Terrace, the reconciliation summary released by King County on March 11 understated the number of provisional ballots inserted into Accuvote machines by two in the “Plus/Minus” column and by seven in the “Adjusted #” column.

Rather than leaving a “Net Difference” of five ballots from unexplained sources, the summary should have shown a so-called balance of zero (“so-called” because the illegitimate ballots in the ballot box were still illegitimate even after their source was deduced).

The five extra ballots were left as an unexplained “net difference” because of errors in preparing the summary, not because their source couldn’t be explained.

A correct report of the situation at Denny Terrace would have increased the admitted total number of provisional ballots unlawfully inserted into the Accuvote machines to 671 rather than 664. (The “Adjusted #” column was totaled in the summary, so the four negative-number adjustments made to explain away shortages of ballots in the boxes cancelled out four of the positive-number adjustments made to account for provisional ballots unlawfully inserted into the Accuvote machines. The net was 660, but the total of provisional ballots put into the machines according to the summary was 664, not 660.)

At Denny Terrace, the ballot accountability sheets and the notes made by the canvassing crew on the poll book cover sheets show that the polling place as a whole had 32 more ballots in the ballot box (via the Accuvote machine) than the number of regular ballots signed for and issued.

All 32 of those extra ballots in the ballot box resulted from the insertion of provisional ballots into the Accuvote machine rather than into signed, sealed, labeled envelopes for validation prior to tabulating the votes on any of them.

Yet, the reconciliation notes in the “big binder” and in the reconciliation summary released by King County on March 11, 2005, do not show the facts. Instead, the binder notes show 24 extra ballots in the ballot box, rather than the 32 which were actually there; and the summary shows 30 extra ballots rather than 32. Also, the “adjusted #” in the summary is only 25 even though there were more than enough missing (“no label”) provisional ballots to explain all 32 extra ballots.

For the precincts voting at Denny Terrace, the numbers which should have appeared for each precinct in the canvassing crew’s binder are as follows:

SEA 43-2541 – Extra ballots “+13”, not “+7”;
SEA 43-2545 – Extra ballots “+2” as stated;
SEA 43-2546 – Extra ballots “0” as stated;
SEA 43-2547 – Extra ballots “+11”, not “+9”;
SEA 43-2548 – Extra ballots “+1” as stated;
SEA 43-2549 – Extra ballots “+5” as stated;
SEA 43-2852 – Extra ballots “0” as stated; and
Total – Extra ballots “32” not 24 as would have been stated had the sum been written in the binder’s notes.

In the reconciliation summary, the binder’s figures for extra ballots weren’t accurately transcribed:
SEA 43-2541 – Extra ballots was stated as “13” (which was correct) rather than the binder’s “7”;
SEA 43-2545 – Extra ballots was stated as “1” rather than the binder’s “2”;
SEA 43-2547 – the number was stated as “12” rather than the binder’s “9” or the correct 11;
SEA 43-2548 – the number was stated as “0” rather than the binder’s “1”;
SEA 43-2549 – the number was stated as “4” rather than the binder’s “5”; and
Total – the total was stated to be “30” rather than the binder’s 24 or the correct 32.

The “Adjusted #” column in the reconciliation summary should have shown numbers for each precinct that cancelled out all 32 of the extra ballots in the count. An apparent “crossover error” occurred in precincts SEA 43-2547 and -2548. There were 12 missing “no label” provisional ballots in -2547, but only 11 extra ballots in the count. The other missing provisional ballot was apparently mistakenly issued from the stack of ballots for precinct -2548, making it appear that -2548 had an extra ballot in the count even though it had no missing “no label” provisional ballots to explain that extra ballot. That’s the only complicated part of deducing where all 32 extra ballots in the ballot box came from.

Oddly, the canvassing crew "zeroed out" the election day Accuvote tabulation for the Denny Terrace polling place and hand counted the ballots to be sure of the correct count -- but the new ballot numbers that resulted from this hand count weren't incorporated into the reconciliation summary. The failure to correct the ballot counts for each precinct was perhaps the reason why the crossover error in the two precincts noted above wasn't recognized while preparing the summary. (Either that, or the totally confused "+/-" numbers in the binder's notes left the people preparing the summary unable to make any sense at all of this polling place. Those "+/-" numbers should have reflected the numbers of extra ballots or missing ballots, if the canvassing crew member who made the notes followed the same procedure as the member who did the Bothell Regional Library polling place reconciliation. They didn't, so preparing a summary from a non-standardized bunch of notes was difficult, to put it mildly.)

For those keeping up with the numbers of “voterless ballots” evidenced by the absence of enough names on the list voters credited with voting, the “WANDA” numbers written on the poll book cover sheets by the canvassing crew show that the scanning of bar codes next to signatures in the poll books skipped seven. The Denny Terrace polling place ought to show up as having 32+7=39 too few voters credited with voting to account for all the ballots included in the vote tabulation.

(A "hat tip" and thank you to Stefan Sharkansky of Sound Politics for providing images of the ballot accountability sheets and poll book cover sheets needed to figure out the Denny Terrace polling place "reconciliation.")

Saturday, April 09, 2005

What is the deadline for absentee ballots?

By what date must an absentee ballot be received by the county auditor in order to be included in the election returns?

The Revised Code of Washington and the Washington Administrative Code aren’t consistent.

According to RCW 29A.60.190, each absentee ballot “with a postmark on or before the date of the...election...and received on or before the date on which the...election is certified must be included in the canvass report.”

But, the administrative regulation stated in WAC 434-240-240 says ballots must be received by the auditor’s office “not later than the day prior to certification.”

For the last general election, did all county auditors follow the administrative regulation and reject absentee ballots received after November 16; or did some accept ballots received on the date of certification, i.e., November 17?

Is there any reason why the administrative regulation states a deadline that is earlier than the deadline set by the legislature?

Is such a regulation a lawful exercise of the Secretary of State’s rule making authority?

If so, what other statutes can the Secretary of State nullify?

Friday, April 08, 2005

King County's Puzzling Absentee Ballot Processing

The internal memo describing the discovery of 93 absentee ballots which had been mistakenly omitted from King County’s vote tabulation after the November 2004 general election raises a few questions. (Thanks to Stefan Sharkansky, who posted the memo at Sound Politics.)

Not all the ballots noted as missing on the batch slips were found.

What happened to the five missing ballots which weren’t found?

Six ballots were found which belonged in particular batches of ballots, yet there supposedly weren’t any ballots missing from the vote tabulation according to the batch slips.

How could the batch slips show no discrepancies, when there in fact were ballots which didn’t make it all the way to the vote tabulation stage?

Sometimes, the batch slips contained notes stating that the ballots were tabulated twice and hand counted – and sometimes no such notes were made on the batch slips.

Page two of the internal memo purports to explain the significance of the notes that recorded the extra tabulations and hand count efforts:

The batch slip also indicates that the ballots opened and transferred to tabulation were counted twice to verify the count at tabulation and an additional hand count of the ballots was performed. It is standard procedure to perform additional research on a batch that is off in the number of ballots tabulated from the number of ballots verified.

This explanation may be correct (or not, see below), but if it is, then what steps were taken to ensure that the correct number of ballots was passed from one stage to the next?

The explanation indicates that tabulating the ballots twice and even hand counting them were done at the end of the process – when the number of ballots tabulated didn’t match the number of ballots accepted as valid.

If the numbers weren’t checked at each stage of the process, it would be very difficult to go back and resolve any discrepancy, since the discrepancy might have been introduced when the ballots were at the verification, opening, manual inspection, or tabulation stage.

Not all the batch slips involving missing ballots contained an indication that the ballots were tabulated twice or hand counted. Was it a standard procedure or not?

Tabulating twice and hand counting were also noted on some batch slips even when there was no discrepancy indicated by the batch slip numbers. Why double-check when there was no apparently missing ballot?

Were the ballots stored in the same batches while awaiting the first and second recounts?

If they were stored in batches, rather than sorted by precinct, would the batch slips have been used to record a count of the ballots when they were taken out of storage for those recounts?

Did the person writing the internal memo misunderstand the notes indicating the ballots were tabulated twice and hand counted? They were all supposed to be tabulated twice by machine (the initial and the first recount) and once by hand (the second recount).

Perhaps those notes don’t show an effort to double- and triple-check the number of ballots that reached the initial tabulation, but instead simply record the three times the ballots were tabulated. (If so, then all the batch slips should have had such notes – but not all did.)

The most puzzling part is the absence of any indication that anyone went looking for the missing ballots even when the batch slips showed discrepancies. What’s the point of processing ballots in batches, if not to make it feasible to resolve discrepancies before proceeding to the next step in the process?

Perhaps some day we will see whether this same mishmash of notes and numbers on batch slips occurred when there were too many ballots in the tabulation compared to the number verified. That situation would have presented the mirror image of the missing ballot scenario, and the discrepancy should have been noted and resolved if possible.

King County delayed the release of polling place ballot reconciliation records while they tried to put together an explanation and summary that would purportedly make it easier to understand what they had done.

How long will they delay the release of records showing whatever audit trail exists for their absentee ballot processing? They will surely want to try to put the best face on it before making the records available.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sims says it's not Logan

The many problems disclosed (so far) at the King County elections office have led some to call for the resignation of the head of that operation, Dean Logan.

Logan's boss is County Executive Ron Sims, who thinks Logan ought to stay.

Here's an interesting statement by Sims, as reported by King 5 News:

When asked if people other than Dean Logan need to leave the elections office, he responded, "Without a question."


"We have people who are deliberately ignoring standard operating procedures, who don't seem to want to be conscientious or professional in their conduct," said Sims.

"Why are you convinced that it's not Dean Logan?" KING 5 asked Sims.

"Because Dean has made so many changes in that agency and most of the people in the agency have welcomed those changes. There are some who are very resistant," he said.

Sims seems to be opening up just a little -- going much farther than Logan did with his cryptic references to problems with the "culture" in the elections division.

If it's not Logan, who prepared the reports submitted to the canvassing board? Those reports concealed discrepancies in polling place ballot counts and in absentee ballot counts. They ought to have been prepared under the direct supervision of Logan, if not by Logan himself.

It's pretty obvious that people at the lower levels of the personnel structure are to blame for the irregularities that led to those discrepancies -- and Logan cannot be everywhere at once, so isn't necessarily to blame.

But, once those discrepancies made it impossible to prepare reports which showed the numbers of ballots issued and received -- and the disposition of each ballot -- it was Logan's responsibility to prepare the "auditor's abstract" to inform the board of the vote counts and all discrepancies affecting the accuracy of that abstract.

The canvassing board was required to determine whether Logan's abstract could be certified as "a full, true, and correct representation of the votes cast."

If Logan didn't provide a full, candid and accurate report of all the circumstances to the canvassing board, isn't he the one to blame?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sims says let Logan finish the job

After Republicans on the King County Council called for a federal investigation and for the resignation of Dean Logan, County Executive Ron Sims had this to say:

"These unopened and uncounted ballots are the result of the systemic problems he is working to fix," Sims said in a statement. "It is important to let him finish the job he has begun."
That's all well and good, Mr. Sims -- unless, of course, the "job" you want Logan to finish is something other than disclosing what went wrong, how it happened, how many have been fired as a result of their neglect or willful misconduct, etc.

What are the "systemic problems" that Sims claims Logan "is working to fix"?

Are they the "cultural" problems that Logan refers to on occasion?

It seems obvious that some lower-level supervisors and "middle managers" need to go. The disregard for legal requirements and sloppy job performance of their subordinates shows they haven't done the job of supervision expected of them.

If Logan won't get rid of them, then he needs to go as well.

His efforts to stall and cover up the discrepancies discovered during the canvassing of ballots before the initial certification of election returns on November 17 may be grounds for firing him.

If he also fails to clean house now that many of the discrepancies have been revealed to the public, then what good is he? (That is, what good is he to law-abiding, honest folks who insist that our elections be decided by the legitimate votes cast by qualified electors?)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Situation Report 05-04-03


Friday, April 01, 2005

Situation Report 05-04-01