News

King County has spoken: It's Rossi

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

42 votes.

The result of the automatic recount of Washington's gubernatorial race isn't likely to end the most expensive campaign in state history with that result.

Republican Dino Rossi was declared the winner over Democrat Christine Gregoire by 42 votes following the statewide recount that ended Wednesday. A second recount, this time by hand, is considered a certainty. The Democratic Party started raising funds earlier this week to pay for the next recount. It's estimated to cost about $700,000, or 25 cents for every ballot if counted by hand.

On Wednesday, the secretary of state's election division reported Rossi had 1,372,484 votes to Gregoire's 1,372,442.

Each candidate picked up more votes in the recount. Rossi added 1,070, while Gregoire had 1,289 added to her column.

Rossi was also the winner at the close of voting Nov. 2 in the general election, with a 261-vote lead when the count was certified on Nov. 17.

The outcome hinged largely on the recount result in King County, a stronghold for Democrats. Gregoire had a sizable lead over Rossi here.

Democrats started laying the groundwork for a second recount on Tuesday, claiming missing ballots, technical problems, counting errors and the narrow margin between the candidates "all point to the need for a manual recount."

"As the machine recount continues, we continue to discover new problems," said Paul Berendt, the Democrats' state chairman. "For voters to be confident of the legitimacy of the new governor, and with the margin between the two candidates so incredibly small, we need to be sure that every single vote is counted and counted correctly."

Taxpayers picked up the bill for the automated recount, but the impending hand tally will get charged to the party making the request.

Kirstin Borst, spokeswoman for the state Democrats, said the party was in the process of raising money for the recount, asking donors from the state and nationally who had given to Gregoire's campaign.

The secretary of state will certify the machine-tabulated recount on Nov. 30. The parties then have three days to request a recount, either by machine or by hand. A deposit has to be placed at the time of the request.

Chris Vance, Republican state chairman, said Tuesday that Gregoire should "gracefully concede the election" like the Democrats' presidential candidate, John Kerry, did on Nov. 3.

It's like the bitter campaign hasn't ended with the election. Both state parties have been cranking out press releases slapping each other or King County and taking the high ground defending their own actions. The candidates, for the most part, have been silent since election day.

The parties have taken the election to court. The Democrats successfully argued King County should have contacted more than 900 voters who used provisional ballots and were later called into question because the signatures on the ballots didn't match those in the county's files.

When Democrats brought in affidavits from some of those voters, the Republicans cried foul claiming the potential for voter fraud. The county held its ground, stating it was supported by state law, and a court agreed. The Republicans collected affidavits after losing in court.

Republicans then tried to stop county election officials from "enhancing" ballots, but failed when the court rejected their emergency request. A second court date is scheduled for Dec. 1.

The county maintains it legally enhanced ballots, meaning if two election officials agreed the voter had made a clear choice on a candidate but failed to mark the ballot properly for the computer to record, the officials would fill in the bubble next to the selected candidate. Then the ballot would be counted.

The Democrats then basically called the Republicans hypocrites, noting King County wasn't alone in enhancing ballots, and that there have been issues at other counties that favor the GOP but have not been scrutinized by the party.

There are 22 counties using optical scanning to count ballots. In King County, voters fill in bubbles next to candidates' names and issues. Pierce County voters draw a line connecting an arrow next to candidates' names. Fourteen counties use punch-card ballots. Three use touch-screen systems.

Vance said the state GOP was objecting to all counties enhancing optical-scan ballots because the counties that used punch-card ballots did not have a similar provision if the vote wasn't tallied by the machine, but the voter's intent was clear.

The Democrats also took state Republicans watching the recount in King County to task for being "aggressive during the vote count, trying to interfere with the non-partisan ballot counting, and questioning efforts to count every vote."

In another recounted race in 2000, Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, took a U.S. Senate seat from then-incumbent Republican Slade Gorton in large part because she won in King County. The recount added votes to her total.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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