The recount of those ballots was prompted by Metropolitan King County Councilman Larry Phillips' discovery that his absentee ballot wasn't counted.

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King County election officials said today they will count 561 votes that were rejected in the governor’s race.


The recount of those ballots was prompted by Metropolitan King County Councilman Larry Phillips’ discovery that his absentee ballot wasn’t counted.


Those ballots were thrown out because the county voters’ signatures didn’t appear among the records in a computer database. Election workers erroneously threw out those votes before using voter-registration cards to verify signatures on absentee-ballot envelopes.


“It’s unfortunate that it occurred,” King County Elections Director Dean Logan said of the mistake. “I guess one solace is that we’re able to correct it in time for those votes to be counted in this historically close race.


“As much as I regret the error, I will feel much better knowing those votes will be counted now rather than finding out a month from now the error had been made.”


Absentee-ballot signatures must match signatures on voter registration cards. If any signatures don’t match, voters will be informed of the mismatch and given a chance to establish the validity of their ballots, Logan said.


County officials became aware of the error after Phillips scanned a list of his Seattle constituents whose gubernatorial votes had been rejected.


Phillips’ eyes froze. There, buried in the list, was his own name.


“I was under the absolute impression [that] not only I voted, but followed the instructions correctly,” said Phillips, a Democrat. “If it can happen to the King County Council chairman, it can happen to anyone else.”


Phillips, who voted absentee because he was in Ohio campaigning for presidential candidate John Kerry, thought there might have been a mix-up because he doesn’t normally vote absentee.


The state Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing today in the Democratic Party’s lawsuit seeking to compel counties to reconsider thousands of ballots rejected in the first two gubernatorial counts because of problems such as signatures that did not match those on file with election offices. Before a statewide hand recount began last week, Republican Dino Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by just 42 votes.


Kirstin Brost, state Democratic Party spokeswoman, called the rejection of Phillips’ ballot “a prime example” of why ballots must be reviewed.


“The Democrats are going to the state Supreme Court tomorrow to ask that in the hand count we review ballots that may have mistakenly been thrown out,” Brost said last night.


State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance responded: “The Democrats are asking for far more than counting a few ballots that were missed the first time. They want them to look at every ballot that was rejected the first time. It would destroy our election process.”

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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