Was Burien Council election ‘rigged’? King County Elections says unlikely


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After most elections – especially heated, divisive ones like Burien’s most recent City Council ballot – the losing side usually goes through a mourning/grieving period, and oftentimes, some upset voters even conspire and say that it was somehow “rigged.”

Numerous recent posts on Facebook allude to this conspiracy – that somehow, the two-to-three day reversal in election results that went from a 2/2 split (with Wagner, Manning, Tosta, Marx leading) to a clear 4-0 victory (Matta, Olguin, Tosta, Marx) was “suspicious” and possibly hinted at “potential local political corruption.”

Here’s one comment we saw:

“Looks like potential local political corruption. It doesn’t make sense that the percentages would shift that much in 72 hours. We were told on election night that if the percentages are more than 2% difference (e.g., 51% to 49%) that it should hold and historically has 95% of the time. And more than a 5% point difference holds 99% of the time (e.g., 47.5% to 52.5%).

I don’t know how it happened but it is super suspicious, especially considering what I have heard about tactics of the opposition.”

And another:

“In my opinion they should contest it and voters should check to see if theirs were counted.”

FYI, the drop box at Burien Town Square Park was the 6th busiest location in the county, with a total of 10,445 ballot returns, many of which were dropped during the last days prior to the Nov. 7 deadline.

We reached out to King County Elections to find out if it would be possible to “rig” a local election. In order to do so, you’d a) have to be an employee with a badge (and obvious security clearance), b) gain access to the secure, second floor “offline” (no internet access) counting area and c) manually adjust votes in a room that has 22 security cameras running 24/7.

Here’s what Communications Officer Kafia Hosh told The B-Town Blog:

“We take election security very seriously. Our facility was designed specifically for elections with a focus on transparency and security. We have 22 security cameras monitoring 24-hours-a-day and 6 webcams where you can watch us anytime we’re processing ballots. We have secure access to the second floor where all ballot processing happens. Employees are required to badge in to gain access and badge out to leave the second floor. We also have two additional areas that require both badge and fingerprint authentication to access: the ballot storage area and the tabulation room. Our tabulation system is a completely closed system with no internet access. One would have to physically access the physical space it’s in to tamper with it, which would set off alarms.

“As for last-minute voters, we know anecdotally that younger voters tend to vote later, but we have not tracked any data. What we do track is our ballot return methods. On average, more than 70% of ballots returned to drop boxes are deposited on Election Day or the day before. For this election, we received about 172,000 ballots from drop boxes on Election Day alone. Therefore, a vast majority of ballots reported in our results on the Thursday and Friday after Election Day were from drop boxes. For this election, the drop box at Burien Town Square Park was our 6th busiest location with a total of 10,445 ballot returns. And countywide, 53.3% of ballots came through our drop boxes, versus 46.4% through USPS. The rest were ballots that were emailed or faxed in to us.”

Also, here’s a video courtesy KING5 about King County Elections’ security:

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