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Tuesday, December 28, 2004  

Politics: Gregoire may win disputed election

Hopefully, there will soon be an end to updates about the race for governor of Washington. However, that moment has not arrived yet. Last week, Democrat Christine Gregoire had 'won' the election by eight votes. That margin increased to 10. The numbers came from the hand recount Gregoire's supporters paid $750,000 for. It did not include hundreds of votes from King County that had been missed because of a mistake by election workers. A judge issued a temporary restraining order forbidding counting those ballots. But, the TRO was rejected by the Washington Supreme Court. The votes were counted.

The Seattle Times has the details.

While Democrat Christine Gregoire won the third — and presumably, final — tally in the governor's race by 130 votes, no one is sure yet whether the election really is over.

And no one is sure about what happens next.

Even Gregoire isn't quite claiming victory yet. Supporters of Republican Dino Rossi, who was leading after both the initial vote count and the first recount, are exploring their options for challenging the outcome of the just-concluded hand recount.

. . .The final hand recount showed that 4,018 votes of validly registered state residents had been missed in the original tally from the Nov. 2 election.

The Republicans are threatening to bring forth voters for Rossi who say their ballots were not counted because of mistakes. The Herald has the story.

Copying a page from the Democrats' strategy, Rossi and the Washington State Republican Party want rejected ballots reconsidered by county canvassing boards in hopes that errors can be corrected and the votes counted.

They contend that when the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to let King County fix mistakes to count 735 previously rejected ballots, it opened the door for such actions everywhere else.

Republicans stumbled in their first attempt Thursday. They brought affidavits for 91 voters whose ballots had not been counted to the King County Canvassing Board. The panel, comprised of two Democrats and one Republican, unanimously refused to consider them.

Since all of the counties have now certified their totals, it appears to be too late to challenge the counts. Nor does claiming the election was stolen seem to be a viable route to making Rossi governor, the Times reports.

Republicans would have to go to court to contest the election. State law says a judge has the right to "set aside" an election because of "error, wrongful act, or neglect" in the conduct of the election.

The only promising word in the statute is "error." I believe it means error in the overall process, not the exclusion of a few ballots because of procedural mistakes. The law would also have to be considered in regard to the statute requiring certification, the actual barrier to endless recounts.

Though the GOP claims ballot counting is not over, the results of the election are scheduled to be certified Thursday.

It appears Christine Gregoire has won the election by either 10 or 130 votes, with the latter being the preferred interpretation. But, again, we will have to wait and see.

Reasonably related

Editoral writers at The Columbian endorsed Dino Rossi for governor of Washington. They believe Rossi should accept losing to Gregoire.

Now, the counting, the recounting and the re-recounting finally have ended. Barring some as-yet unknown major legal development, Rossi has lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire by a mere 130 votes out of 2.9 million ballots.

It is time to move on.

Well said.

3:25 PM