E-mails of election official show distress but no bias
Seattle Times staff reporter
"I think there are still those searching for blood, but they smile and say it's not personal!"
"It's all too convenient, if not now fashionable, to stoop to this level when there is a close race."
The low point for King County Elections Director Dean Logan came nearly a month and a half after Election Day, when he discovered that his election staff had mistakenly rejected more than 700 absentee ballots.
The discovery of those mishandled votes — potentially enough to give Democrat Christine Gregoire the edge over Republican Dino Rossi — led Rossi supporters to accuse Logan and the King County Elections Office of trying to rig the outcome of the closest statewide race in history.
When Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy reminded Logan that he couldn't control what others said about him, Logan sounded depressed: "I am having a particularly hard time this morning keeping that perspective. At some point you just begin to break down. I really believe that having friends and colleagues who understand and stand behind you is what keeps a person going."
Thousands of pages of e-mails, released late Friday, show the emotional toll the bitter election has taken on Logan, belying his unflappable public demeanor.
His e-mails were among more than 20,000 pages of election-related documents released at the request of the state Republican Party, which wanted them to bolster its legal challenge of Christine Gregoire's 129-vote victory. The Democratic Party and The Seattle Times also got copies.
The documents portray an elections chief who privately joked about his travails, but more often was combative and even resentful of those who questioned his motives.
Logan, who was once elected Kitsap County clerk as a Democrat, has been accused of finding more and more votes for Gregoire in the closest governor's race in the nation's history.
But his e-mails show no trace of partisanship. Shortly before the manual recount began last month, Logan politely brushed aside a suggestion from a Democratic operative that he hire more temporary employees so Logan's boss, County Executive Ron Sims, a Democrat, wouldn't be hurt in his re-election bid by a slow recount.
"Please be clear that my decisions and directions on these issues will not be made based on political implications, expedience, or influence and I would prefer that we keep our discussion out of that arena," Logan told David McDonald, the Democratic Party recount manager who made the suggestion. McDonald apologized for linking his request to politics.
Logan joked — sometimes with gallows humor — about various legal challenges mounted against his division in recent months. "What is the maximum prison sentence I am subject to on this one?" he asked a county lawyer in September about a lawsuit filed over a Mercer Island referendum.
Calm before election stormEight days before the Nov. 2 election, things were calm enough for Logan to praise the new T-shirts for the vote-counting staff.
Soon, he had more important matters to worry about. Four days after the election, Republicans claimed that King County election workers weren't checking the signatures of provisional voters closely enough.
Logan asked officials in several other counties about their procedures. "I think there are still those searching for blood, but they smile and say it's not personal!" he told one colleague.
He reacted angrily to a Nov. 18 press release from the Building Industry Association of Washington that alleged "voting irregularities" in King County. "Unfortunately, I have come to expect this kind of unsubstantiated crap," he wrote to colleagues. "It's all too convenient, if not now fashionable, to stoop to this level when there is a close race."
His biggest trials lay ahead, with the discovery of mishandled absentee ballots in mid-December, then his acknowledgement on Friday that 348 provisional ballots were counted before those voters' eligibility could be verified. The mishandled provisional ballots are central to the GOP's challenge of the election.
Other officials supportiveWhen Logan's most acerbic critics likened King County's election conduct to abuses in Ukraine and Chicago, auditors from other counties offered support. Los Angeles County Auditor Conny McCormack conducted media interviews and offered to fly to Seattle.
The Washington State Association of County Auditors considered writing letters to the editors of major newspapers in support of Logan, but some members weren't eager to sign on.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said he held Logan in the highest regard, but the mistaken rejection of 700-plus ballots "was a very serious mistake that has undermined the public's confidence" in state elections, Kimsey wrote.
Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger, by contrast, wrote, "We all know that but for the grace of God there each of us go."
Acknowledging a split in the auditors' association, Logan asked its members not to write a letter on his behalf.
He also said he understood the need to have a thick skin, and told colleagues he was "in it for the long haul."
Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter contributed to this report.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company