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Monday, November 13, 2006

The Counting Continues

Ballot counting in Pierce and King counties resumes today with one major race still undecided. Dave Reichert continues to have a small lead over challenger Darcy Burner, 98,709 to 95,195. Over the weekend, with only King County counting ballots, the lead increased by only 444 votes.

On Sunday the Seattle Times reported that 100 ballot bags, containing as much as 20,000 absentee ballots that voters had dropped off at polling sites on Election Day, remained uncounted because of concerns the bags were not correctly sealed.
Jim Buck, King County's interim elections director, acknowledged that the problems — including broken zippers and unclosed bag seals — could potentially have allowed ballots to be cast after voting ended.

But Buck said the bags had a clear chain of custody until they reached the counting-room floor, and were never outside the control of poll workers. At a county elections canvassing-board meeting on Tuesday, Buck will recommend that the ballots be accepted and opened for verification and processing.

"I think poll workers who take an oath had these under their control all the way through election night," Buck said. "I don't think there is any question that they were timely received."

...

The troublesome bags are blue, with a handle that allows a red seal to be inserted after poll sites close. They were overstuffed because an unusually large number of absentee ballots were dropped off at polling sites, said Buck, the elections manager.

As a result, some of the bags were too bloated to seal. The zippers on other bags burst like a sausage casing.

...

Because the bags are unopened, it is unclear how many ballots they contain. Jones said a well-stuffed bag held about 200. If so, the bags would hold about 5 percent of the nearly 384,000 mail-in ballots received thus far.

Buck said voters should not be alarmed by the problems.

"The question is not whether it is a valid ballot, because we will be doing signature verification, but whether it came in on election night," he said. "All these bags came back on election night and were locked up in the cages."
As of this morning, the number of returned absentee ballots in King County had reached 392,156, which was already 10,000 more than predicted. These additional 20,000 ballots would increase that number further. Heavily Democratic areas of the district have been seeing the highest return numbers. Meanwhile Pierce County return numbers are lower for the district when compared to past years and neighboring districts, and few ballots remain to be counted there.

Additionally, provisional ballots, numbering in the thousands, have not yet been counted.

With the race continuing to be close, it is looking like it may come down to the provisional ballots, in which case we may not know the winner of this tight race until after Thanksgiving based on the results schedule. While no one likes the delayed results, this is nothing new after the close races of recent elections. However, even if nothing else occurs, the post-mortum on this election count will certainly pertain to how long it took and ways to speed that up while still maintaining accuracy.

Update: the numbers for today are now in.

Further Update: The AP is now calling the race for Reichert.

6 Comment(s):

Comment by: Anonymous Anonymous

Kirk-

Those are all of KC absentee ballots (the 392,000 + the other 20,000) which include the 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 9th district along with the 8th district.

You don't explicitly say that all 392,000 + 20,000 absentee ballots are for the 8th district but a reader can be easily confused.

According to one of the KC links you provide, there were only 203,052 absentee ballots issued for the 8th district.

Now how man of those 203,052 absentee ballots that have been returned and counted I have no idea. I also have no idea on the number of people that voted at the polls.

Cheers.

11/13/2006 12:02 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Torrid

congrats on making the front page of Kos, Daniel! I guess you join Goldy as a Kos-certified WA expert! :)

11/13/2006 12:25 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

Yes, firstly the ballots could be from various locations and not all relevant to the WA-08 race.

Also, since you can drop off an absentee at any polling place, WA-08 ballots may be in bags that came from outside the district.

It is unclear how many WA-08 ballots remain to be counted. It is clear, however, that the percentage of absentees being returned is higher for WA-08 in King County than other districts.

As for being on the front page at Daily Kos, I guess I have Goldy to thank as he pointed people here from HorsesAss, and I suspect mcjoan came here from there.

Of course there really isn't much "counting" news to be had, so everyone is starved for something, anything.

11/13/2006 12:33 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger N in Seattle

The only reason this non-issue is being made into an issue (aside from the crackpot ravings of desperate right-wingers) is that Jim Buck doesn't know how to say what he means.

If Jonathan Martin is actually quoting Buck rather than drawing unwarranted inferences in such things as:

"acknowledged that the problems ... could potentially have allowed ballots to be cast after voting ended."
and
""I think poll workers who take an oath had these under their control all the way through election night," Buck said. "I don't think there is any question that they were timely received.""

then Buck really needs to take some public speaking/public relations lessons.

What he should have said was that the ballot bags were secured inside of other bags at the polling place, that the outer bags were opened in the presence of party, impartial, and citizen observers, and that the inner bags were stored in locked and guarded areas (again, with observers watching it happen), awaiting a meeting of the Canvassing Board. And he also should have said that there is an unbroken chain of custody from polling place to current storage location, so that no ballots could have been either added to or removed from the bags.

11/13/2006 4:00 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger N in Seattle

Bad day for Darcy today. I mean really bad.

Not only did Sheriff Hairspray do even better in Pierce than he's done in previous days -- over 57% of the votes -- he got more new votes than Darcy in King. Lots more ... almost 53% of the day's count, which is what we were hoping Darcy would get. In fact, one might almost think that King County somehow reversed today's new votes.

Overall, Reichert now leads by 9 votes in King County and by over 4700 in the entire district.

11/13/2006 6:34 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

It has been an uphill battle since Day One for Darcy. It just got steeper.

11/13/2006 6:38 PM PT  

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