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It's Never Over 'Til It's Over

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Jan. 17, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRISTINE GREOIRE (D) WASHINGTON: Clearly the election recount or deal of the last two months has challenged us. And among our challenges this session is election reform. We want every vote to count and to be counted right the first time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: That’s Governor Christine Gregoire (search) of Washington. The governorship election has been held, counted, recounted and certified. She has been inaugurated and now is in office. But apparently it’s not over yet and there will be a court hearing later this week. What’s it all about?

For answers, we turn to Stefan Sharkansky, founder of the Seattle based Web log Sound Politics (search), which was first to point out among other things that King County produced more than 3,000 more votes than it had identified voters.

Mr. Sharkansky, welcome.

STEFAN SHARKANSKY, SOUNDPOLITICS.COM: Thank you very much.

HUME: First of all, what was the — refresh me on this — how much did Christine Gregoire and the certified count win by?

SHARKANSKY: At the end of the manual recount she was ahead by 129 votes out of about 2.9 million cast.

HUME: So when it became official, that was the final margin of victory.

SHARKANSKY: Correct.

HUME: Your reporting has revealed in King County (search), which is the big county out there, there were 3,000 more votes cast than there were identified voters. What do you mean by identified voters?

SHARKANSKY: Well, that was the number they came out with on December 29 when they released what was a preliminary. They’ve actually lowered that number down to about 2,100 more ballots than voters. But what they did was identified how many ballots, how many pieces of paper they counted. And they also released the list of all of the voters who were registered to vote and who were known to have cast ballots. These are people who signed in at the polling place or submitted absentee ballot. And the discrepancy between those two numbers is now about 2,150 more ballots than voters.

HUME: So obviously there are enough votes in play just in that county alone that could turn the election in the other direction. Is there reason to believe, any reason to believe, that these disputed votes or these votes that were in excess of the number of identified voters, would have broken against Gregoire, or one way or the other, so that perhaps the Republican candidate Dino Rossi (search) ought to be the governor?

SHARKANSKY: Well, if you look at how King County voted, Christine Gregoire had an enormous lead in the King County. It’s one of the few counties in the state where she actually led Dino Rossi. He won in most of the counties. And she would have had about a 17 percent margin, I calculated. So if we look at 2,000 identified votes, about 17 percent of those would be excess what’s for Gregoire. It’s about 340. So that alone right there would be enough to change the outcome of the election. Plus, there are all kinds of other irregularities.

HUME: But isn’t it just as likely that the number of excess votes would have split the way the rest of the votes did? I mean if she had that many votes fewer there probably would have — I mean is there any reason to believe that it would have really changed the outcome?

SHARKANSKY: Oh, absolutely. Because if those votes split the way that other votes did, then that would have given an extra 340 votes.

HUME: Oh, I got you. I’m slow on the uptake here. I see what you’re saying. In other words, her overall margin in King County, because of fewer votes, would have reduced her overall total statewide, and that she could have ended up well behind.

What about the rest of the state and alleged shortcomings in the voting out there? What do we know about that?

SHARKANSKY: There are other counties where there are other significant discrepancies and in addition...

HUME: Favoring her?

SHARKANSKY: Favoring her. Yes.

HUME: And what about — are there areas where Rossi was favored by apparent discrepancies or not?

SHARKANSKY: I believe there were as well. And the whole point of all this is that there are just so many uncertainties and so many irregularities; deceased people having cast ballots, felons who didn’t have the rights restored having cast ballots, people voting twice. There are just so many irregularities. It was as the Senator Rossi called it, "A total mess of an election." And we just really don’t know who won.

HUME: The courts will now be asked to decide this. What is the guiding — is there provision — I mean I understand that what is being sought here by the Republicans, by Dino Rossi, is a new vote, a new election. Is there precedent in that state under the current law for that?

SHARKANSKY: Not in the statewide contest. But what the legal maneuver is right now is just a contest of the election. The fist thing to do is put basically put the election on trial. And if it’s found that there are enough irregularities and illegal votes that we can’t figure out who won, then the election will be set aside and made null and void.

The question is what remedy do we have after that? And what the Rossi campaign is seeking is a brand new vote. They’re not asking them to overturn and declare him the winner. They want a new vote. There hasn’t been a precedent.

HUME: OK. So step 1 that we’re coming up to now is election contest, which I assume has been done before. And is the kind of contest procedure that many states have. Once an election has been certified, you then enter into a contest phase and you seek a finding based on an investigation that the election was invalid, correct?

SHARKANSKY: That’s correct. And that has been done not on a statewide race to my knowledge, but on local races in the state and in local races have been set-aside in a contest.

HUME: What happens during the contest phase? Is it just like a trial where you bring in evidence and you try the case before judges? Or what?

SHARKANSKY: Well, I’m not an attorney. There are probably people better qualified to talk about the specifics of that. But what the Rossi campaign is alleging is all the various irregularities, this discrepancy we talked about of the thousands more ballots counted than voters who have been identified, the number of felons who have been found to have voted. There are hundreds found already. Instances of dead people — ballots cast in the names of deceased people and people who voted more than once.

HUME: And how much certainty can there be? I mean I assume that upset the election and begin the question of figuring out what to do about it, the court would have to determine that the election — that you don’t know who won. That it’s sufficiently in doubt that you don’t know who won, is that the idea?

SHARKANSKY: Yes, it is.

HUME: All right. And that having happened, is there precedent in the state of Washington for a new election being ordered?

SHARKANSKY: Yes. In one particular case in Adams County (search), I believe there was a county commissioner race several years ago that the trial court found that there was too much uncertainty, to many irregularities to know who won. The Supreme Court upheld that decision and a new vote was ordered

HUME: Got you.

Stefan Sharkansky, thank you very much for getting us through this. Hope to have you again.

SHARKANSKY: Thank you very much.

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