- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — The state elections director yesterday testified that he thinks the problems in Washington’s incredibly close 2004 gubernatorial election were innocent mistakes.

“I saw inadvertent mistakes and errors of human beings who were working their hearts out,” said Nick Handy, who was appointed to the post. He said he disagrees with his boss, Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican who has called the problems in heavily Democratic King County “appalling.”

Mr. Handy testified as a trial to determine whether the results of the election should be thrown out entered its second week.

Democrats are trying to defend the gubernatorial election of Christine Gregoire, who won by 129 votes in a hand recount after Republican Dino Rossi won the first two ballot counts. Republicans are asking Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges to open the way for Mr. Rossi to be declared the winner, or for a new election to be held.

Last week, attorneys for the state Republican Party presented evidence of illegal votes and other problems in King County, arguing that the election was stolen from Mr. Rossi.

This week, Democratic attorneys plan to argue that mistakes happened everywhere — not just in King County, and not just in the counties that supported Mrs. Gregoire.

Yesterday, under questioning by Democrats’ attorney Jenny Durkan, Mr. Handy said he does not think that discrepancies between the number of ballots counted and the number of voters were significant or sinister. Attorneys for the Republicans have pointed out that King County counted 785 more ballots than the number of people who were credited with voting in the 2004 election.

“It’s not a process that bears on the authenticity of the election,” Mr. Handy testified. “It’s more like a housekeeping exercise done after certification.”

Mr. Handy said the secretary of state’s office is not taking sides in the election challenge, but is involved to ensure that the record is clear and complete in the precedent-setting case. He noted that his office has been sued about 20 times in the past year by both Republicans and Democrats over elections.

“We are an equal-opportunity defendant,” he said.

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