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Counter for a day finds few bugs in recount process
The Seattle Times ^ | 18 December 2004 | Danny Westneat

Posted on 12/18/2004 2:19:24 AM PST by JosefK

Danny Westneat / Times staff columnist Counter for a day finds few bugs in recount process

Lindsay McClellan is sitting across from me, sifting through a 4-inch stack of ballots, when she says the words that could change the course of state history:

"We've got a smudge."

I've been hired to count votes in the governor's race. We are sitting at a cramped folding table under fluorescent lights, one of 80 three-person teams that are counting, one at a time, King County's 898,574 votes.

All activity at our table stops instantly. The glowering observers from the political parties loom over us like vultures.

For intrigue in this tedious work, nothing tops a "smudge." It's the lingo for those rare ballots on which voters have marked more than one oval in the governor's race.

They are the gray zone, the murky territory of what is believed to be the tightest statewide election in U.S. history.

They are our hanging chad.

McClellan, the Republican-appointed counter, squints at the ballot. The oval for Republican Dino Rossi is filled by a black pen. But there also is a black dot in the oval for the Democrat, Christine Gregoire.

She peers closer. The mark is odd, not quite the same shade as the black pen. Is it a flaw in the paper? A blemish left by the vote-counting machine? What in the world is it?

Suddenly she sits back and laughs.

"It's a squashed bug!"

And so it is. Probably a gnat or no-see-um who died around Nov. 2, dried to the ballot and has been threatening to unhinge the governor's race ever since.

We tally the vote for Rossi, finding that the voter probably squashed the bug in Gregoire's oval not with intent to vote for Gregoire but with intent to kill the bug.

And so it goes in this extraordinary recount, the largest manual examination of election ballots ever attempted.

King County hired me to count votes for one day. I told them upfront who I was and that I would write about the experience.

I was treated like any other employee. I had to join the Teamsters union, the bargaining unit for King County elections workers (and, for you conspiracy theorists to chew on, a union that supports mostly Democratic candidates). I signed a form allowing the Teamsters to deduct 1.3 percent of my $12.70 hourly wage.

Last week I was trained in vote-counting procedures for nearly two hours.

Thursday, I arrived at 7:45 a.m. along with nearly 300 others at the county's manual-recount facility, an office building next to Boeing Field.

The vote-counting room had the feel of a makeshift casino. There were no clocks to give a sense of the passage of time. It felt like we were sitting at blackjack tables, only our task was to sort and count ballots from boxes delivered by runners.

We were forbidden to get up without permission, or to reseal the boxes without a county employee present. At all times, we were scrutinized by as many as six grim-faced observers.

With all the recent news about uncounted votes and ballots being found in the side pockets of precinct machines, I expected a slipshod operation.

I was completely wrong. I am now convinced that in the counting of votes, humans are unquestionably superior to machines.

My team of three sorted and counted 5,544 votes during a nine-hour shift. We agreed unanimously — the Republican, the Democrat and I, the county worker — about who should get every one of those votes.

Each ballot was counted by the Republican appointee: McClellan, 21, a recent University of Washington grad who applied to be the Rossi family nanny and got this job because her brother-in-law works for the campaign.

Then the same stacks were counted by the Democratic appointee: John Reese, 53, a Seattle pro-Palestinian activist who said he was "way left of liberal — I guess I'd call myself a radical."

They kept their counts secret and gave them to me. If the numbers matched, we reported the results and resealed the box. If they differed, we started over. If the second counts still didn't agree, we were instructed to return the box to be given to a new team.

The system of checks and double-checks didn't stop there. If our tallies for a precinct varied by even one vote from the machine recount, another team would later reopen the box and count the entire precinct by hand again.

"I'm so impressed with this system," McClellan said. "It's near impossible to corrupt, and it seems much more sensitive than a machine count. All the criticisms I hear about what we're doing are wrong."

Reese agreed. "I don't have much faith in the American political system, but I have faith in what we're doing here," he said. "I would put people counting over machine counting any time."

Take the ballot with the squashed bug. If the bug was there on Nov. 2, it's possible the optical-scanning machine did not count that vote, assuming more than one oval was blacked out. By hand inspection, we found it to be an obvious vote for Rossi.

You can see this effect in the hand recount statewide. As of yesterday, teams like mine in 38 of the state's 39 counties had added 1,130 votes to the two governor candidates' totals, almost always by counting votes that were obvious to the human eye but which the machines had passed over.

In a race separated by a few dozen votes out of 2.9 million, these are the kinds of judgments that could dictate who is governor. It's comforting to me that they are now being made by human beings.

I can't vouch for the county canvassing boards, which are made up of partisan government officials.

But political strife almost is nonexistent on the recount teams. Even when it rears up, it doesn't affect the final tally. Two counters were dismissed earlier in the week when they got into a shouting match, and their work was redone by others.

The counters at the table next to mine stood out because they were in constant disagreement, and repeatedly had to return boxes of votes to be counted by a new team.

There are serious questions being raised about the ballot-tracking and signature-checking procedures in King County. The discovery of hundreds of ballots that were apparently wrongly rejected back on Election Day has undermined the county's credibility.

But those critics who are blasting the manual recount on the face of it don't know what they're talking about. Such as former Gov. Dan Evans, a Rossi backer who, just as the recount was starting, said this:

"Can you imagine 300 newly hired, ill-trained, overworked people counting by hand with people looking over their shoulders and getting accurate counts? It's ludicrous."

I can do more than imagine it, governor. I saw it with my own eyes.

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: christinegregoire; dinorossi; election; handrecount; marummy; process; recount
FYI...

Of course, you have my blog at
1 posted on 12/18/2004 2:19:24 AM PST by JosefK
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To: JosefK

http://josef-a-k.blogspot.com


2 posted on 12/18/2004 2:19:40 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: truth49; CyberCowboy777

Consider yourselves pinged...


3 posted on 12/18/2004 2:32:29 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: matchgirl

I forgot you - sorry :-(.


4 posted on 12/18/2004 2:33:12 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: All
"I would put people counting over machine counting any time."

If you were one of those who caught six Rossi votes being placed in a Gregoire stack, you wouldn't. And that sort of thing happened, at more than one table.

The media has been assigned a job here, folks.

5 posted on 12/18/2004 2:37:52 AM PST by DaughterOfAnIwoJimaVet (I actually voted for John Kerry...before I voted against him.)
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To: DaughterOfAnIwoJimaVet

Well, they're embeds...

Go figure. Also note the comments of Rossi's nanny. That has got to crimp Marummy and the troops. She should have very respectfully kept her mouth shut because it looks like the backdoor message of Dino Rossi...

That said, you may want to note the involvement of the Teamsters... Geese, mandatory union contribution - UGH!


6 posted on 12/18/2004 2:40:49 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: JosefK

Dr. Deming's red bead experiment shows that 100% quality checks put in more error than systematic quality controls.

In other words, the manual count is less accurate than the first count and each succeeding handling of the ballots will result in a larger error. This is what the Rats want to happen. They don't care what the people want.


7 posted on 12/18/2004 2:54:17 AM PST by shubi (Peace through superior firepower.)
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To: JosefK

Blog update for this morning at http://josef-a-k.blogspot.com is up...

Go on down to "Marummy Watch" if you want the Rossi camp statement...


8 posted on 12/18/2004 2:58:35 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: DaughterOfAnIwoJimaVet; JosephK; KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle; Steve_Seattle; Cacique; ...
First all, if the count done by these machines is inaccurate, it's because of the incompetence of the people who programed them, not the because of an inherent flaw in the machines themselves.

Contrary to what this columnist may believe, it's not possible for these Teamster goons to be more "reliable" than their electronic counterparts. If anything, both methods of tabulating votes are equally suspect in their reliability/accuracy.

Secondly, I don't think that humans are necessarily more trustworthy than machines.

In fact, in some cases, I think that they're less able to get things done right. There are undoubtedly Rhesus monkeys that exhibit more intelligence than certain Democratic electors.

PEOPLE ARE STUPID!

That aging, Pali-loving hippie profiled in this piece is just one illustration of the truth of the above statement.

Finally, what makes this mediocre hack believe that the people supervising the re-vote currently taking place in King County didn't put on a show, specifically, for him and his cohorts in the left wing press?

9 posted on 12/18/2004 3:07:11 AM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham (Why did it take me so long to come up with a new tag-line, huh?! What's up with that?)
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To: JosefK

Anyone knows hand counts are never as accurate as machine counts. In my line of work, this is a fact.


10 posted on 12/18/2004 3:07:26 AM PST by MarMema
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To: MarMema

Line of work being?


11 posted on 12/18/2004 3:15:32 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: Do not dub me shapka broham

Maybe you are - you spelled my name with a ph.

That said, you failed to note that the Palestinian radical nutcase was balanced by the Rossi family nanny...


12 posted on 12/18/2004 3:16:57 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: JosefK
What do you mean by that?

I have no idea what your name is.

13 posted on 12/18/2004 3:28:07 AM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham (Why did it take me so long to come up with a new tag-line, huh?! What's up with that?)
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To: JosefK

Considering Hand vs Machine must not be judged based on the fact that perhaps MOST of the hand counters, even in King County, are honest Americans - both Dem and Pub. The issue as I see it is that in a hand count, the counters that are working against the system can do ALOT more damage to the process than a machine. The [rotton] human can read the news, use the phone, call the hacks, etc... and know the quantity of votes required and then, based on that persons job, do all he or she can to cheat.


14 posted on 12/18/2004 4:25:06 AM PST by C210N
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To: JosefK
That said, you failed to note that the Palestinian radical nutcase was balanced by the Rossi family nanny...

Well, you were almost right.

Republican appointee: McClellan, 21, a recent University of Washington grad who applied to be the Rossi family nanny and got this job because her brother-in-law works for the campaign.

15 posted on 12/18/2004 4:34:50 AM PST by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for Spec.4 Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: DaughterOfAnIwoJimaVet
"I would put people counting over machine counting any time."

If you were one of those who caught six Rossi votes being placed in a Gregoire stack, you wouldn't. And that sort of thing happened, at more than one table.

I'm reminded of a story my wife's grandmother told....

Grandma worked for the county in a small Nevada town. The elections ballots were the fill-in-the-dot type (apparently similar to Washington state's ballots) and optically scanned. Grandma tells the story of one election where an election worker concealed a pencil lead under his fingernail and scratched a line through his candidate's bubble on ballots that went for the opposing candidate. The scanner would then reject the ballot as a double vote.

16 posted on 12/18/2004 5:08:36 AM PST by randog (What the....?!)
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To: shubi
Dr. Deming's red bead experiment shows that 100% quality checks put in more error than systematic quality controls. Hey, thanks for bringing back memories! In his low voice, "There's no way to know!". He was a great guy! Was at one of his seminars in Cali yrs ago. Learned alot! BTW, I wish democrats would accept nothing is perfect & learn to accept that only thing consistant is change.
17 posted on 12/18/2004 6:03:15 AM PST by SIRTRIS
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To: Do not dub me shapka broham

Since you can't read whom you're replying to - it's JOSE-F AS IN JOSEF!


18 posted on 12/18/2004 6:28:43 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: Graybeard58

Guess so. Woops. Just sounded about right...


19 posted on 12/18/2004 6:29:05 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: SIRTRIS
BTW, I wish democrats would accept nothing is perfect & learn to accept that only thing consistant is change.

They do "accept" it . . . when their candidate is leading. They just don't accept it when they get whupped.

For example . . . just imagine how loud they would've screamed had Thune challenged the Indian votes when he ran against Johnson. When a Pubbie does it, it's either racism or whining. When a Democrap does it, it's "making sure every vote counts" . . . again, so long as the decision is made in their favor.

They don't want fair elections . . . they know they would just join the T-Rex that much sooner.

20 posted on 12/18/2004 6:32:03 AM PST by geedee (History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.)
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To: geedee

"Thune challenged the Indian votes when he ran against Johnson"

Why should he in South Dakota?


21 posted on 12/18/2004 6:39:54 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: Do not dub me shapka broham

"PEOPLE ARE STUPID!"

Bugs are smart and vote democrat!
Insect disenfranchisement! :^)


22 posted on 12/18/2004 6:45:12 AM PST by OSHA (OSHA, the Grand Wizard and Chief Executive Fascist of FreeperWorld- Industries LLC)
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To: SIRTRIS

Don't confuse Rats with facts.


23 posted on 12/18/2004 9:05:58 AM PST by shubi (Peace through superior firepower.)
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To: JosefK

What is a "no-see-um"?


24 posted on 12/18/2004 9:36:49 AM PST by Choose Ye This Day ("Supporting the Troops" means you want them to WIN.)
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To: shubi
This is what the Rats want to happen. They don't care what the people want.

Totalitarians never do.

25 posted on 12/18/2004 9:52:43 AM PST by sionnsar (Merry Christmas from Fraud County, WA.)
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To: Choose Ye This Day

I dunno...


26 posted on 12/18/2004 11:05:57 AM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: JosefK
Why should he in South Dakota?

Because the Dems stuffed the ballots on the reservations. There were all kinds of voting irregularities and had only one of them been proven . . . Thune would have won. But Thune refused to challenge the election . . . which only proves all good things come to those who wait because Tiny Tommy Dasshole is now unemployed.

Pubbies simply don't whine like Democraps. Nixon didn't raise hell in 1960 when Papa Joe Kennedy stole the election in Chicago. But Al Gore couldn't wait to put his country through hell.

Democraps know they can't win through fair elections . . . that's why they're trying to pack the court systems with Liberal law-makers instead of law-deciders -- they know the voting process is slowly but surely leaving them behind so they have to find another avenue to try to force their agenda down our throats.

27 posted on 12/18/2004 12:34:03 PM PST by geedee (History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.)
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To: geedee

You're a bit overblown. Tell you what - read http://www.timothygoddard.com/blog/index.php?p=774 if you can. Good piece of talking points...


28 posted on 12/18/2004 2:25:29 PM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: DaughterOfAnIwoJimaVet

Yeah, well UKRAINE 5 (f.k.a. KING 5) is hosting ALL the Democrat documents at http://www.king5.com/topstories/stories/NW_121804ELBrecountEL.20b07863.html

That's fine, but where are the Rossifarians' documents?


29 posted on 12/18/2004 2:27:12 PM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: JosefK

Oh, that's right - they're at http://pullonsupermanscape.typepad.com/pull_on_supermans_cape/2004/12/wa_governors_ra_12.html instead of posted at a mainstream media website...


30 posted on 12/18/2004 2:28:15 PM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: OSHA

PLEASE!


31 posted on 12/18/2004 2:29:17 PM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: JosefK
I was treated like any other employee. I had to join the Teamsters union, the bargaining unit for King County elections workers (and, for you conspiracy theorists to chew on, a union that supports mostly Democratic candidates). I signed a form allowing the Teamsters to deduct 1.3 percent of my $12.70 hourly wage.

What is this crap?

God, I hate unions.

32 posted on 12/18/2004 2:29:58 PM PST by Hank Rearden (Never allow anyone who could only get a government job attempt to tell you how to run your life.)
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To: JosefK
You're a bit overblown.

LOL. "Overblown?" For a newbie . . . you've sure got some gonads.

I didn't bother reading your "talking points." You obviously didn't read my posting. Instead of lecturing me, perhaps you'd prefer to debate my claims.

Are you denying there were voting irregularities on the South Dakota Indian reservations in the 2002 elections? I'll give you some reading material you'd best check out before you try and make that argument.

I quote from the link . . . "Denise Red Horse, who died in a Sept. 3 car crash, somehow managed to apply for an absentee ballot on Sept. 21--in two different counties." Do you think this dead guy voted for Thune? Twice.

In my second paragraph I stated Nixon didn't contest the close election in 1960, yet Gore did in 2000. Do you disagree with that?

In my third paragraph I said the Democraps are trying to stack the courts with Activist Judges. Again . . . are you disagreeing with that?

I might, in fact, be "overblown" but at least I try to debate someone about what it is they've said or written and not call them names or argue points they've never brought up.

I could give a Tinker's damn about what happens in Washington . . . but it'll always be my contention that Democrapic Whiners far outnumber the Pubbie ones. Do you have any facts to dispute that?

By the way . . . I do sincerely welcome you to Free Republic but you would do well to avoid anything personal.

33 posted on 12/18/2004 3:05:32 PM PST by geedee (History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.)
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To: geedee

Okay, I concede.

Whenever there is voter fraud, I think there is an automatic case to contest the election. That's what Thune should have done, methinks.

Gregoire has not even alleged voter fraud, oddly enough. . .


34 posted on 12/18/2004 4:22:27 PM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: Hank Rearden

Yeah, well EFF will reply on Monday - that is for sure...


35 posted on 12/18/2004 4:23:06 PM PST by JosefK (If you have tips on election theft attempts - please call 425.646.7202 (Rossi HQ))
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To: C210N
Hand counts, conducted at the precinct level, can be the cleanest, most honest method of counting. Every candidate is permitted a poll watcher to assure there are no shenanigans.

I was an election official in a union election back in the 70's. It was the first total mail-in election in our local.

To avoid controversy, we requested the US Dept. of Labor to oversee the entire election.

As both sides trusted me, I was the "official" ballot reader. As the vote was very one-sided, I made a few mistakes.(It's hard to say "Jones" ten times in a row, then switch to "Smith") They were immediately caught and corrected. Those poll watchers looking over my shoulder were not going to let anything get by. I welcomed their presence as this assured that no one could accuse me of anything.

The point is, with all the legal controls in place, a hand count is as accurate as any machine, and it is out in the open where everyone can see it. Also, done at the precinct level, it would not take an inordinate amount of time.

A machine (computer) is only as honest as the person who programmed it. I'm no expert, but I bet it could be programmed to add (or subtract) a vote or two at some specific interval.

36 posted on 12/18/2004 7:24:25 PM PST by snowtigger
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To: snowtigger
Hand counts, conducted at the precinct level, can be the cleanest, most honest method of counting.

A machine (computer) is only as honest as the person who programmed it. I'm no expert, but I bet it could be programmed to add (or subtract) a vote or two at some specific interval.

I think we are somewhat in agreement, but I'd go even furthur in the hand count description: not only it "can be" the cleanest, but It most 99.99% is the cleanest. The issue I have is that in the .01%, it can be downright NOT clean, especially in re-counts and re-re-counts. When you see machine count results, count after count, they are each mostly the same (differences being slight degradation of the ballots, and perhaps humans changing/adding to the pool). On the other hand, re-counts and re-re-recounts both human and machine, while on the up and up 99% of the time, will be tweaked (and especially in close elections where tweaking is most effective) by a few, a very few, but crucial, bad [human] apples.

So, I don't doubt your hand-counting experiences. However, I as now currently having a somewhat analagous experience on the computer integrity side. As a software consultant working on an FAA certified piece of avionics, I am getting a glimpse into the controls and restrictions and focus on every line of code going into an embedded computer aboard an aircraft. Of course it can fail, but the safeguards to minimize are VERY extensive.

37 posted on 12/19/2004 1:00:23 AM PST by C210N
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