- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Washington state Republicans yesterday filed a lawsuit calling for a revote in the tight 2004 gubernatorial contest that saw Democrat Christine Gregoire top Republican Dino Rossi after two recounts by 129 votes.

“Most Washingtonians don’t believe this has been a valid election,” said Mr. Rossi, who filed the Election Contest Petition along with the state Republican Party in Chelan County Superior Court.

“They want a revote to make sure our state has a legitimate governor,” he said. “We’ve gathered strong evidence that shows many of the votes in this election were improperly cast. I believe a revote is the only good solution.”

Republicans pointed to what they described as widespread voting irregularities in King County, a Democratic stronghold, that included votes cast by dead people and convicted felons, illegal provisional ballots, and thousands more votes than registered voters.

“We’ve seen debilitating, fatal mistakes, and we believe that a judge needs to set the results aside and order a new election,” state Republican party chairman Chris Vance said.

But Mrs. Gregoire yesterday again rejected Republican calls for a new election, insisting that any discrepancies could be attributed to normal human error and, what’s more, wouldn’t change the final election result.

“Every day, it’s a new issue that has been raised,” said Mrs. Gregoire, the three-term state attorney general. “I have yet to see any proof of any illegality on behalf of election officials. They have operated in a consummately professional way. I see no intent on their part to defraud the voters of the state of Washington.”

The postelection fracas, complete with the specter of voters rising from the grave, has stunned those who associate such Election Day shenanigans with the machine-style politics of old Chicago, not a good-government state like Washington.

A former state senator, Mr. Rossi won the Election Day count by 261 votes and a second, machine count by 42 votes. A third count, conducted by hand, of the state’s 2.9 million ballots gave Mrs. Gregoire the 129-vote victory.

Republicans immediately cried foul. “He was actually leading in the King County hand recount until they found some new ballots and then decided to accept some questionable ballots,” Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said.

Democrats called the lawsuit a desperate, last-ditch attempt to keep Mr. Rossi’s candidacy alive. They said there was no precedent for an election revote, insisting that local election officials had followed proper procedures throughout the recount process.

“This is a PR campaign by the GOP. They’re throwing everything they can find and hoping something sticks,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Lisa Cohen said. “First it’s military voters, then it’s provisional ballots, then it’s dead voters.”

Republicans are pursuing a report yesterday in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that at least eight persons who died months before the Nov. 2 election cast ballots in King County. Among those was a 51-year-old Seattle woman, Mary Coffey, who died two weeks before absentee ballots were mailed.

“I don’t see how she could have voted. It doesn’t make sense. There has to be some kind of error that happened,” her husband, Michael Coffey, told the Post-Intelligencer.

In some cases, the voters may have died after submitting absentee ballots, which were sent out in mid-September, King County election officials said.

Democrats argued there weren’t enough dead voters to swing the election. “They’re talking about, what, six people? And some of those voted for the Republican candidate,” said Miss Cohen. “Six votes is not going to decide the election.”

On Wednesday, Republicans said that hundreds of King County provisional ballots may have been incorrectly counted. They cited the statements by election workers who said that an unknown number of voters fed their provisional ballots into the voter-tabulating machines, instead of turning them in to polling officials.

Provisional ballots are given to those who want to vote, but whose names aren’t listed on the registration rolls at a particular precinct. Those people were allowed to vote, but asked to place their ballots in an envelope so that they may be checked later.

Another discrepancy lies in the King County vote total, where about 3,500 more votes were cast than there are registered voters. Election officials had pared the number down to 1,200 yesterday after reviewing registration documents, but Republicans noted that the figure was still high enough to reverse the outcome.

“[Mrs. Gregoire] wants to sweep us under the carpet and hold on to what she’s got,” said Miss Lane. “The fact is, there are many more improperly cast ballots than her margin of victory.”

Mrs. Gregoire is scheduled to be certified by the Democratic-majority Legislature Wednesday, although Republican legislators plan to push to have her inauguration postponed until the legal challenge is decided.

“At this point, there’s such a cloud over this election that the only way we can restore the public trust is with a new election,” Miss Lane said.

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