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County prepares for election lawsuit

Every 10 minutes, Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks said he gets a new e-mail asking for hundreds of pages of information.

Thursday marks the first court date for Island County and Washington’s 38 other counties as they prepare to defend themselves against allegations levied on behalf of Republican Dino Rossi.

The lawsuit comes in the aftermath of a tumultuous election for the state’s governor in which, after two recounts, Gov. Christine Gregoire has taken the helm.

“We’re defending the actions of the county,” Banks said. “Our position is that the county didn’t do anything that was illegal or improper.”

The process began on Jan. 3, when lawyers from Seattle-based law firm Davis Wright Trumaine filed a petition in Chelan County Superior Court contesting the Nov. 2 election.

“Petitioners believe that the number of illegal votes counted, and the number of valid votes improperly rejected in this election, are so great as to render the true result of the election uncertain and likely unknowable,” the petition asserts.

Island county is named specifically in two claims of the lawsuit. The first is that the total number of votes counted is greater than the number of votes cast.

Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair said that the county reconciled its votes within 20, which is considered sufficient.

“We’re concerned, naturally, and we take it seriously,” she said. “But in terms of details, no, there’s nothing (I can say).”

Banks also would not discuss the details of the defense that the county is assembling.

“I’m not going to comment on that yet,” he said. “That’s going to remain to be seen.”

The other claim made against Island County is that the review of provisional ballots was not a uniform process.

“Additional counties violated petitioners’ rights to equal protection of the laws by refusing to correct errors when presented evidence from lawfully registered voters of the respective county’s mistakes,” according to the petition.

Banks would not comment on what evidence exists against Island County.

“I really don’t know what their source of their allegations are,” he said.

Banks said that Island County ran a clean election. He cited compliments from observers representing both Democrats and Republicans.

“If people think that when you have an election and you cast a vote, then it’s counted, that’s not it, it’s a complex process,” he said. “But if we discover there was a fraud, it’s something we would certainly disclose.”

Banks said the most difficult aspect of the lawsuit is keeping up with the requests for documents. Lawyers filed a 20-page brief seeking thousands of pages, he said.

“Basically, they’re fishing for anything to support their claims, I guess,” Banks said. “(This is) kind of a strange lawsuit because they’re asking for a remedy on a statewide level, but they’re suing all of the individual counties.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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