December 20, 2004

Recount Rally

Several dozen demonstrators lined opposite corners in front of Dino Rossi’s Bellevue campaign headquarters Sunday. From a block away, the blue and yellow Rossi signs on one side clearly distinguished his supporters from the diverse and mostly handmade signs urging a full count that includes improperly set aside ballots in King County. I talked to several Rossi supporters, and then moved over to the other side to talk with recount supporters, including some of those whose ballots were in dispute.

At issue, primarily, are 573 absentee ballots which were turned in properly and whose authenticity is not generally in dispute. They were wrongfully set aside because though signatures were on file for the voters in question, those signatures were not in the county’s electronic file. The ballots in question are still sealed in their signed absentee voting envelopes. It wasn’t until King County Councilman Larry Phillips discovered his own name on the list of rejected ballots that the mistake was discovered.

On Rossi’s side, two of the five demonstrators I interviewed stated that Rossi had “won twice.” Another, Michael D. went one farther, saying that it “seems like Republicans have to win three times.” Of the disputed ballots, Michael said “that’s what happens… [it] occurs in every election.” A number of them brought up an issue of military ballots that were mailed back late and weren’t counted, suggesting that if those weren’t counted, these other ballots shouldn’t be counted either.

Rossi’s supporters were led in chants by several campaign volunteers wearing sweatshirts whose fronts said “Rossi Recount 2004” and whose backs said “Re-Git R Dun.” The sleeves were printed with the number “261,” the number of votes separating Rossi and Gregoire after the first count.

Rossi supporter Marilyn T. told me that “[she goes] by the law regarding voting,” explaining that the State Supreme Court had said it was a retabulation, and it was important to follow the law to avoid confusion. She said a vote was from a citizen who followed instructions and turned in their ballot at the proper time and place, while a “ballot is merely a form.” About the 573 ballots in question she said that the county was accountable for them, but they were “not included before the election was certified,” and that the late military ballots should be counted if they were included. She said the “court ruled there was not a statewide standard,” but that the canvassing boards set the standards.

Maria Webster said of the 573 ballots, “I don’t believe in them. …They are not legal right now. It’s a recount of the votes that have already been counted.”

Paul Morris of Kirkland came up to talk to me when he saw that I’d taken an interest in his sign, and brought it over to make it easier for me to see his message: “Dems – Vote Late – Vote Often” Explaining his sign, he said that “if the majority of those [ballots] that are found are Democrats, they must have voted late.” About the 573 ballots, he said that “every vote should have been counted before midnight on the 2nd,” and that it was the King County Election Board’s problem. He said that they didn’t do anything wrong, but that they should “go over to King County and raise the roof.” *

Morris went on to say of the recount supporters that “just like any liberal would, they think they’re forgiven for everything they do wrong.” He said that the “liberal left” of Seattle was asking for late ballots to be counted, and that “they’re counting dead people’s ballots.” He said the demonstrators were probably mostly from Seattle because people on the Eastside were more conservative.

I went looking for a recount supporter from Seattle, and was able to find one. Martha J. pointed out to me that there were “no Christine Gregoire signs on [the demonstrators’] side of the road.” She said she was “making a statement that there’s a principle here that’s more important than who gets to be governor… Democracy is more important than who gets elected at any given moment.” Pointing to a sign held by a young teenage girl in pink sweat pants, she said that if a police officer was present they might ask about the sign saying “Dead people don’t vote,” which “could very easily be interpreted as a threat.” She said the Rossi supporters “act like they’re still campaigning.”

Martha J. was standing right next to Heinz Hecht of Bellevue, whose sign read “Count every vote.” He said that according to the signs and chants, Dino Rossi won twice, but “last time I looked, the Secretary of State had yet to certify anything but a recount.” He said you couldn’t win anything until the election was certified. Of the people standing across the road, he said “apparently their candidate is more important than counting all the votes. I find that objectionable.”

Jack and Diane Oxford of Enumclaw were demonstrating because their ballots hadn’t been counted. Diane Oxford explained that this election was the first time they’d voted absentee, and that they had walked their ballots to the precinct they’ve voted at for around 20 years. Their son, who also voted absentee that day, had wanted to hand in his ballot in person so they all decided to go. His vote was counted, but theirs weren’t. She said their votes were questioned because there was no electronic record, even though they’d registered quite some time ago. She said that it “really doesn’t have anything to do with party lines, it has to do with the right to vote. At least for me.”

Eileen Dunihoo of Shoreline was there because her son, Daniel Mair, had one of the 573 uncounted ballots. She said that he’d voted absentee since at least 2000 with no previous problems from his current home in the Czech Republic. On the 15th of November, Dunihoo said a letter was received asking for signature confirmation that had to be back the next day. Then a week ago, the said the election officials said they never received the ballot, even though the family had seen Mair’s name in the online list. Dunihoo said that her son voted on time via registered mail.

Greg Ellis of Bellevue carried a sign that said “Count All Our Votes.” He said he was “one of the 573 that supposedly they did not have a signature on file [for].” He’d been a registered voter for three years, and had voted at a polling place before. This election was the first time he voted absentee, saying that he’d been travelling a lot for work and hadn’t even got back to town until the day before. Ellis said he’d requested an absentee ballot, but because it had never arrived, he filled out and turned in an absentee ballot in person at the King County elections office in Seattle the Saturday before the election. He added that “they say they don’t have a signature on file, but I had to show them my drivers license to get the ballot,” so election officials must have known who he was.

At about 4pm, the recount demonstrators decided they’d made their point and packed it in. The Rossi supporters sent a contingent over to the newly vacant corner and cheered like they’d just successfully stormed a hill. The street was empty of passersby, traffic at the intersection was nearly nonexistant, and the only people within earshot were a few reporters and the last of the demonstrators heading home.

* King County's ballots weren't counted the first time until several days after the election because 83% of the county's million plus voters cast a ballot. Further, considering that this county is a deep blue dot in the middle of a lot of red, the odds of a majority of the 573 ballots being anything other than Democratic could charitably be described as slim. There are at present no credible reports of dead people attempting to vote in King County.

Posted by natasha at December 20, 2004 02:41 AM | Elections | Technorati links |

Keep up the good work.

I'm quietly watching from Kirkland - a deep blue house in the middle of a red city (though not as red as you'd think) - and I appreciate the updates.

Posted by: paul at December 20, 2004 11:28 AM