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Judge to Rule Monday on Validity of Washington Governor Race

June 03, 2005|From Associated Press

WENATCHEE, Wash. — A judge said Thursday that he would rule Monday on whether the 2004 gubernatorial election should be nullified.

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges' announcement came as Democrats neared the end of their defense of the disputed election, which Democrat Christine Gregoire won by 129 votes.

Today lawyers for the Democrats are to rest their case, GOP lawyers are to question three rebuttal witnesses, and each side is to make its closing argument.

Republicans challenging Gregoire's victory have focused on errors in the Democratic stronghold of King County, the state's most populous, home to about a third of the total votes statewide. They contend the errors indicate fraud and want the election overturned to allow a new contest between Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

Democrats have countered that any election errors in King County were inadvertent and innocent, and that similar mistakes happened in other counties, including those that favored Rossi.

Linda Sanchez, King County election operations supervisor, testified Thursday about discrepancies in some precincts between the number of ballots counted and the number of people listed as having voted.

"Are these kinds of errors unique to King County?" Democratic lawyer Kevin Hamilton asked.

"No, I'm sure they are not," Sanchez said.

But GOP lawyer Rob Maguire pointed out that Sanchez told her supervisors she was concerned that the number of discrepancies were outside her "tolerance zone" when she was working on reconciling the results after Election Day. Republicans say King County counted 875 more votes than people credited with voting.

"You said yesterday that any irregularity is a concern," Maguire said.

"That's true," Sanchez said.

"One is a concern, right?" Maguire asked.

"Well, we'd love to be perfect," Sanchez said.

Sanchez testified that she did not know for sure what caused the difference between votes cast and voters credited.

Democrats have asked the judge to exclude evidence of crediting discrepancies altogether.

Late Wednesday, they asked Bridges to exclude the testimony of GOP data analyst Clark Bensen, who said last week that King County discrepancies followed a suspicious pattern.

Democrats say crediting is merely a postelection administrative exercise, and Bridges has said he doesn't believe crediting or lack of crediting is proof of voting or not voting.

Noel Frame testified Thursday that her research found 637 felons who voted illegally in the 2004 general election.

Frame led a team of Democrats who looked for illegal felon voters in all 39 Washington counties, as a way to offset the Republicans' claims of 764 felon voters. Democrats found their felon voters primarily in areas that voted for Rossi, although Republicans found their felons mostly in areas supporting Gregoire.

Felons can't vote in Washington unless they apply to a court and get their voting rights restored. Research by both parties has shown that many felons, unaware of the law, voted anyway.

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