Donkeys 3, Elephants 1

The Dems were ahead after the first week of the Wenatchee trial.

After the first week of Borders et al. v. King County et al., my scorecard read Democrats 3, Republicans 1.

The lawyers for Republican Dino Rossi, who seeks to overturn the 129-vote election of Gov. Christine Gregoire, spent May 23–27 making their case to Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges in Wenatchee. This week, the Democrats were presenting rebuttal witnesses and evidence. Bridges will rule from the bench on the landmark case, which is certain to go to the state Supreme Court no matter who wins. Here's how I scored the proceedings, taking into account how the trial affects political reality outside the courtroom:

•The GOP case depended largely on expert testimony about statistical analysis that suggests individual illegal voters, scattered in precincts throughout the state, each voted like other people in their neighborhood. Rossi and the other GOP plaintiffs hoped to show that Gregoire got 129 more illegal votes than Rossi. Democrats had other experts testify that this theory is flawed. And although Bridges admitted the testimony and evidence into the record, he seemed quite dubious the argument would convince him to toss out the governor's election. Democrats 1, Republicans 0.

•The Republicans also claimed they would show, through circumstantial evidence, that someone committed fraud. They highlighted precincts in King County that supported Gregoire where there were more votes than voters (ballot stuffing!) and ones that supported Rossi where there were more voters than votes (ballot stealing!). Their evidence didn't pass the giggle test, and the judge ruled that the fraud argument was too late, in any case. Democrats 2, Republicans 0.

•The GOP says that even if its case does not result in a new election for governor, it will help clean up the state's election system. Information Republicans have brought to light about problems in King County is indeed very useful. For instance, King County installed a new computer system that is supposed to generate reports on ballots sent to absentee voters, ballots received back, and how many of those received were rejected or accepted. Secretary of State Sam Reed calls such accounting fundamental. Testimony in the case showed that either the computer system didn't work right or the workers couldn't figure out how to use it. Making sure that problem is solved for 2005 elections is but one obvious task. Democrats 2, Republicans 1.

•Democrats argue that the GOP's lawsuit is little more than $2 million worth of advertising for Rossi's next campaign. State Democratic Party Chair Paul Berendt points out that before the trial, GOP lead counsel Mark Braden was in D.C. with Rossi raising money for the litigation, while Democratic attorneys were madly preparing for trial. Berendt claims Braden's behavior shows that the GOP isn't taking the suit seriously. It is hard not to agree after listening to the GOP's evidence last week. Democrats 3, Republicans 1.

ghowland@seattleweekly.com

 
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