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Profile: Washington Supreme Court
Washington Supreme Court was a participant or observer in the following events:
Christine Gregoire (D-WA), declared the loser in her gubernatorial race against Dino Rossi (R-WA) by a mere 42 votes (see November 2-30, 2004), is shown to be the winner after a full recount. On December 23, 2004, Gregoire is certified to have gained 919 votes in the recount, and Rossi gained 748, giving Gregoire a 129-vote lead. The State Legislature certifies the vote, and Gregoire is sworn in as governor on January 12, 2005. [Washington Secretary of State, 12/23/2004; Seattle Times, 12/30/2004; HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005] 1,555 votes in Democratic stronghold King County were initially not counted, 573 of them because their signatures had not been entered into the computer database. It is certain that these 573 votes were improperly rejected, and perhaps many of the others as well, the King County Elections Board determines. The error comes to light when Larry Phillips, chairman of the Metropolitan King County Council, discovers that his vote was disqualified. His request to find out why he was disqualified leads to the discovery of the 573 uncounted votes. Republican Party chairman Chris Vance says of the findings that he and his fellow Republicans are now “absolutely convinced that King County is trying to steal this election.… There are Republicans urging us to organize mass protests, to take to the streets. At some point people’s patience just runs out.” He adds: “It’s either gross incompetence or vote fraud. I guess we should just keep expecting King County to find votes until they find enough.” Republicans accuse state Democrats of attempting to rewrite Washington’s election laws to ensure Gregoire is named the victor. [Seattle Times, 12/14/2004; Seattle Times, 12/14/2004] As many as 162 absentee ballots in King County were “misplaced” and not counted. King County Elections Director Dean Logan said before the recount was complete that “we knew as fact” those voters were improperly disenfranchised. [Seattle Times, 12/17/2004] King County Republican Dan Satterberg, a member of the King County Canvassing Board, says: “We’re determining the validity of votes and ballots one at a time.… It reminds me of when I would umpire Little League games. You never want the umpire’s call to make the decision in the game.” Satterberg attempts to block the counting of disputed absentee ballots, but is outvoted by the canvassing board’s two Democratic members. The State Supreme Court reverses a lower court ruling and allows the absentee ballots to be counted in the larger totals. On December 21, just before the vote totals are announced and Gregoire is named the winner, some 350 protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court building, demanding that Rossi be named the winner, accusing the Gregoire campaign of orchestrating a systematic voter fraud effort, and comparing Washington State to Ukraine, a nation whose recent elections were marred by massive voter fraud. The rally was sponsored by a conservative talk radio station. [Associated Press, 12/22/2004; Seattle Times, 12/23/2004] Washington State Republicans file a lawsuit challenging the recount and demanding that Rossi be sworn in as governor, citing as evidence their claims that hundreds of convicted felons voted without going through the procedure to have their civil rights restored. They also claim a raft of other irregularities benefited Gregoire, particularly in the Democratic stronghold of King County, and will challenge 1,678 votes cast as “illegal” and “fraudulent.” [HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005] Rossi will demand a new election (see December 29-30, 2004), a demand that will not be honored (see February 4, 2005).
Lawyers for the Washington Democratic Party celebrate after the court ruling certifying Christine Gregoire as governor. [Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer]State Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D-WA) is certified the winner of the Washington State governor’s race against challenger Dino Rossi (R-WA). Rossi was initially declared the winner (see November 2-30, 2004), but the race was so close that Gregoire asked for a recount, as was her right under the law (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Republicans challenged the recount in court, citing 1,678 votes as “illegal” (see January 7, 2005 and January 24-28, 2005). Superior Court Judge John Bridges rules against the Republican plaintiffs. He finds that although some voting irregularities did occur in the largely Democratic King County, they were not the result of deliberate voter fraud or manipulation. “No evidence has been placed before the court to suggest fraud or intentional misconduct,” he says. “Elections officials attempted to perform their responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner.” In only five instances—five votes—was evidence presented that showed the intent of the voter in the 1,678 “illegal” votes cast. For the other 1,673, officials were unable to determine which candidate the voters in question selected on Election Day. None of those five votes were for Gregoire: Democrats presented evidence that four convicted felons had illegally voted for Rossi and a fifth for a third-party candidate. Bridges deducts those five votes from the final tally, giving Gregoire the final and official 133-vote margin of victory. Bridges refused Republicans’ demands to subtract what they called “invalid votes” from the statistical totals of vote tallies, and to statistically refigure the votes. Such an action would constitute the worst kind of judicial activism, Bridges says. As a result, “The court concludes that the election contest petition should be dismissed and the certification of Miss Gregoire as governor confirmed.” State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt says: “It’s a huge victory. But the centerpiece was that the Republicans never had a case. They need to drop their case so the state can get on with its important business. They have shown that they will spend anything, they will say anything, and they will do anything to tear down Christine, and it’s time for that to stop.” Later in the day, Rossi says he will not appeal the ruling to the Washington Supreme Court: “With today’s decision, and because of the political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest,” he says. Bridges says that if the election process is flawed, it is up to the state legislature to fix it, not the courts. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/5/2005; Borders et al. v. King County et al., 6/6/2005; Washington Post, 6/7/2005; HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005]
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