WASHINGTON | 2004 | Governor

Hand Recount Saves the Election from Bogus voting machine Results

Shoddy election administration and fraud-prone electronic voting machines nearly handed the Washington governorship to the wrong candidate.


  • Statistical Evidence: Election Day electronic voting results diverged significantly from hand-counted ballots in Snohomish County.
  • Fraud-Prone Technology: Numerous reports of Sequoia voting machine irregularities correlate with higher Republican voting results.
  • Recount Discrepancies: Hand recount contradicted the original voting machine results by a large enough margin to tip the election.
  • Lost Ballots: Shoddy election administration, misplaced ballots, and incorrect signature books plagued King County.
  • Fake Candidate: Libertarian admitted to purposefully running on a liberal platform that would steal votes from the Democrat.

Statistical Evidence

Election Day Electronic Voting Diverged from Hand-counted Ballots in Snohomish County

The computerized touchscreens handed Republican Dino Rossi a 50,400 to 42,125 vote victory over Democrat Christine Gregoire. However, the two-thirds of votes that were tabulated using hand-counted paper ballots had the Democratic candidate winning 97,044 to 95,228. The chance that such a discrepancy would happen randomly is less than 1 in a quadrillion (literally).

Key Facts

Indicators of fraud in snohomish county

  • Numerous reports that touchscreens would appear pre-voted, or else would select the Republican box when the Democrat’s box was pressed.

  • Machines that had recently had their CPUs repaired and were networked together via power cords showed a propensity for Republican voting.

  • Problems of switched votes or machines freezing up appeared in more than one-third of polling locations.

  • Statistical analysis shows high correlations between reported voting irregularities and high Republican voting results.

  • Snohomish County had the highest election-day increase in Republican votes relative to absentee vote totals.

Fraud-Prone Technology

Easy to Hack Sequoia Voting Machines Were Suspiciously "Serviced" Prior to the Election

In Snohomish County Washington, one-third of the voters used computerized touchscreen machines made by Sequoia. Many of the Sequoia machines were suspiciously “serviced” two weeks prior to the election.

Researchers from Princeton have shown how easy it is to hack Sequoia touchscreen machines with only a few minutes access.

Firmware can be replaced with fraudulent code that "appears to count votes but in fact switches votes from one candidate to another," according to computer scientist Andrew Appel.

This cheating code can recognize party affiliation in the ballot definition files. The vote-switching hack remains active in future elections.

By moving votes from one candidate to another the total vote is kept intact to avoid detection. This hack also defeats detection by differentiating between pre-election Logic and Accuracy testing and Official Election mode, and delaying the fraud until after a threshold of votes has passed.


Washington State has better recount procedures than many other states, so when the 2004 governor's race was disputed, the recount was able to correct the original result.  

The initial results showed Republican Dino Rossi leading by only 261 votes. The subsequent automatic machine recount narrowed his lead to 42.

The State Democratic Party opted to pay $730,000 for a hand recount, which eventually showed Christine Gregoire winning by 129 votes. When all the legal battles were finally over, she led by 133.



Election administration errors in King County were crucial to reversing Rossi's lead. Some 561 absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected because voter signatures had not been scanned into the county database, and election officials failed to check discrepancies against the paper record.

In other cases ballots were simply lost or misplaced: Twelve ballots were found in storage with the voting machines, and an additional 162 absentee ballots had been set aside and forgotten in a warehouse mail tray when election workers couldn't find corresponding voter signatures.

Red Herring

Libertarian Ran on Liberal Platform to Steal Votes from the Democrat

Libertarian candidate Ruth Bennett ran in the governor's race to purposefully steal votes from Democrat Christine Gregoire and tip the election in favor of Republican Dino Rossi.

"I ran hoping I would attract more people from the left, and therefore cause Mr. Rossi to win. And I came within a whisker of doing that," Bennett told Seattle Weekly.

Bennett ran on wedge issues like marijuana legalization and marriage equality, against which it was easy for the Republican to take a clear stance. Her campaign made overtures to the Republicans to coordinate on messaging.

It's difficult to determine the total effect of Bennett's candidacy, but when Rossi ran against Gregoire again in 2008, and Bennett wasn't in the race, Rossi lost by a very decisive margin.