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Saturday, November 13, 2004

No Right More Precious Than Voting!

SEATTLE — A judge Friday ordered election officials in the state's largest county to turn over the names of about 900 voters whose provisional ballots are in dispute.

Judge Dean S. Lum said it would burden the county little to release the names, and that state law favors openness in government.

"No right is more precious than the right to vote," he said.

A lawsuit by Democrats had sought to block election officials in King County, home to Seattle, from discarding the disputed ballots.

The legal wrangling stems from the closest gubernatorial race in state history. As of Friday afternoon, Republican Dino Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by about 2,000 votes out of more than 2.7 million counted. The count could continue into next week.

State party chairman Paul Berendt said volunteers would work through the weekend to contact the voters.

Counties estimated they had about 85,000 ballots left to count, mostly provisional ballots. King County has about 25,000 ballots left to count, mostly provisionals — which are essentially backup ballots that are cast when a resident's registration is in dispute.

Democrats demanded that King County not discard hundreds of provisional ballots and give the party — and the voters — a chance to fix technical problems, such as not signing the ballot envelope.

The move was criticized by Republicans, who said Democrats threatened to turn the gubernatorial election into "another Florida."

The county had declined to count the 900 provisional ballots because they did not include a proper signature. Voters were being notified of the deficiency and have until Tuesday to submit the proper signature verification.

Also Friday, election materials from an Indiana congressional district were impounded after Democrats requested a recount amid concerns that optical-scan voting systems did not work properly.

--MSNBC Nov 13

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