- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

SEATTLE (AP) — Democrat Christine Gregoire won the Washington governor’s race by 130 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast, according to final recount results announced yesterday from Seattle’s King County, the last of the state’s 39 counties to report.

Hundreds of belatedly discovered ballots helped extend what otherwise would have been just a 10-vote advantage for Mrs. Gregoire in her topsy-turvy race with Republican Dino Rossi.

The first ballot count showed Mr. Rossi winning by 261 votes, and a subsequent machine recount had Mr. Rossi winning by 42. The latest recount was conducted by hand.

“Wooo-hooo!” exulted state Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost moments after the results were announced. “We’re very excited. We always believed she would win.”

Secretary of State Sam Reed is scheduled to certify the election Dec. 30. After that, the election results probably will be challenged in court, or possibly the Legislature.

State law allows any registered voter to challenge election results, and Republicans have begun asking that elections officials reconsider votes for Mr. Rossi that they say were wrongly rejected.

“We’re going to be going across the state demanding they make every vote count,” Mr. Rossi’s spokeswoman Mary Lane said earlier yesterday.

After Mr. Rossi won the first two counts, Democrats paid $730,000 for the hand recount. By law the state has to repay the party if the recount reverses the results.

“We asked for a hand count because we knew machines make mistakes,” Miss Brost said.

During the hand recount, King County election officials said they discovered that hundreds of ballots had been mistakenly rejected because of problems with how the voters’ signatures had been scanned into the computer system.

Over Republican objections, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that state law allows county canvassing boards to correct mistakes in qualifying votes, allowing King County to count another 732 ballots.

Election officials found 566 to be valid ballots; 311 were for Mrs. Gregoire, 191 for Mr. Rossi. The remaining 64 ballots were for other candidates, did not contain a vote in the governor’s race, or showed votes for more than one candidate.

Yesterday morning, Republicans submitted affidavits to King County elections officials from 91 people who voted for Mr. Rossi and believe their ballots were erroneously rejected.

Dean Logan, the county’s elections director and one of three members on its canvassing board, said those ballots would not be re-evaluated because they had been properly considered and rejected.

Despite Republicans’ requests, most auditors statewide have decided not to reconsider rejected ballots, said Corky Mattingly, Yakima County’s auditor and president of the Washington State Association of County Auditors.

The auditors agree with Mr. Reed, a Republican, that state law prohibits counties from recanvassing after their results have been certified, Mr. Mattingly said.

“This is the end,” he said yesterday. “You don’t just keep recertifying and recertifying.”

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