- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Unofficial results yesterday showed Democrat Christine Gregoire winning the Washington governor’s race by a 10-vote margin over Republican Dino Rossi after officials in the Democratic stronghold of King County announced results of a hand recount.

The county announced its results hours after the high court ruled that more than 700 additional ballots — discovered by county workers weeks after the election — must be counted, a decision likely to favor Mrs. Gregoire.

King County, the last county to finish counting ballots, is expected to certify its results today, though further court challenges are certain.

At a press conference in Seattle, Mrs. Gregoire said she wouldn’t declare victory yet.

“Keep the faith,” she told cheering supporters. “The election process is working exactly as it should.”

Republican officials yesterday vowed to begin their own search to find previously uncounted ballots for Mr. Rossi, the Republican real-estate agent whose narrow Election Day victory has been jeopardized by the unprecedented statewide hand recount that began Dec. 8.

“We’ll be taking them to canvassing boards in counties across the state and asking those canvassing boards to review their decisions and to consider these ballots,” Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said.

“It’s certainly too close to call, and Dino is not conceding,” she said. “This election is not over.”

Asked whether Mr. Rossi should concede, Mrs. Gregoire said that decision was his.

“I’ve been called on many times to concede,” she said with a smile. But she urged Mr. Rossi to abide by the final result of the hand recount.

“We’ve got huge issues facing the state, and we need to get on with it,” she said. “Whoever is governor is going to have a challenge of bringing the state together.”

“I don’t think anyone will view Christine Gregoire as the legitimate governor” if she wins by a tiny margin in King County or because of the Supreme Court ruling, Miss Lane said yesterday before the decision was handed down.

The high court’s order to admit the disputed King County ballots — whose postelection discovery a Republican spokesman called “very suspicious” — was the latest twist in an election that was supposed to have been settled seven weeks ago.

When results were first officially tallied, Mr. Rossi won the governorship by 261 votes out of 2.9 million cast, a margin trimmed to just 42 votes in a required machine recount on Nov. 30. Three days later, Democrats said they would seek a hand recount.

During that second recount, King County workers say they found 573 ballots mistakenly rejected because of a problem with how the voters’ signatures had been scanned into the computer system. King County officials then said that their search of a warehouse had turned up an additional 150 uncounted ballots — all from voters with last names beginning with A, B and C — previously overlooked.

At yesterday’s high-court hearing, Republicans argued that it was too late for counties to go back and correct errors. But the court unanimously said state law and previous court rulings specifically allow county canvassing boards to correct mistakes during a recount.

Justices questioned Republican claims that counting the votes would cause irreparable harm.

“You’re looking at it from the point of view of the winner or the loser — shouldn’t we be looking at it from the point of view of the voter?” asked Justice Susan Owens.

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