Wash. GOP Demands New Governor Election

By REBECCA COOK, Associated Press Writer

OLYMPIA, Wash. - State Republicans Wednesday charged that hundreds of provisional ballots may have been counted on Election Day without being verified.

It's the latest in a series of allegations from Republicans who are pointing to flaws in the governor's balloting and demanding a new election. After losing the first two counts, Democrat Christine Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi in the third count by 129 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast.

State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said an admission by election workers in King County that provisional ballots had been counted without verification is "absolute proof" of the need for a new election. The heavily Democratic county includes Seattle.

"It's enough right there to invalidate the election," Vance said. "This is a bombshell."

Gregoire's inauguration is scheduled next Wednesday. Republicans are preparing for a possible court challenge to the election the deadline to file such a challenge is Jan. 22.

Democrats downplayed the importance of the GOP claim.

"There would have to be thousands before it would make a difference," said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost. "This is just the attack of the day from the Republicans."

County elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said Wednesday that 87 percent of the 31,545 provisional ballots issued in King County have been validated and included in the official count.

Provisional ballots are given to people who go to the polls on Election Day, but who aren't listed as registered voters in that precinct. Election workers research afterward to determine whether the vote is valid and should be counted.

GOP election observers in King County said they saw hundreds of provisional ballots go straight into the voting machines on Election Day without any checks. Election workers said a review of polling place records should indicate the extent of the problem, but it may be impossible to determine exactly how many provisional ballots were fed into the tabulating machines on Election Day.

King County this week is reconciling its list of voters in the 2004 election, which is about 3,500 names short of the number of ballots cast. At least four other counties have similar discrepancies, which county auditors say is common.