Rossi gains three votes as counties launch hand ballot recount
Press and KING Staff Reports
Garfield and Mason counties completed their hand recounts Wednesday. There was no change in the Garfield County totals, but in Mason County Republican Dino Rossi gained 12 votes and Democrat Christine Gregoire gained 9. That gives Rossi a net gain of three votes; he now leads Gregoire by 45 votes.
The tally from the final hand count of votes is not expected to be completed statewide until at least Dec. 23.
As election officials begin counting the votes for governor a third time, lawyers for the Democratic and Republican state parties are getting ready to take their battle to the state Supreme Court over the virtually tied race for governor between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi.
The state Supreme Court scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. Monday on the Democrats' petition to include a reconsideration of previously rejected ballots.
Republicans argue the hand recount should include only ballots that have already been validated and counted.
GOP lawyers have asked the court to reject the Democrats’ motion, saying the push to reconsider previously rejected ballots would “wreak havoc” on this and future elections.
“The law is quite clear that a recount is a ‘retabulation’ of valid votes and does not include those ballots that the canvassing boards rejected,” the Republicans’ brief said.
“This is all about not changing the rules,” Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said Tuesday. “This process needs to go forward by the book.”
Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost countered that the lawsuit is really about counting every vote.
“Democrats are talking about the rights of individuals to have their votes counted,” Brost said. “An election isn’t a test for voters — government should ensure that all legal votes are counted.”
The Democrats’ motion to the Supreme Court said mistakes and inconsistencies in the initial vote counting should be reviewed and corrected.
Republican Rossi is technically the governor-elect: he won the closest statewide election in Washington history by 261 votes in the first count and by 42 votes in the first, machine recount.
Democrats hope a hand recount of the 2.9 million ballots cast could turn the tide and make Gregoire the winner.
"Being a Republican in Washington state is difficult," Rossi joked with supporters Tuesday night. "You actually have to win three times to win."
A November 1996 memo from the secretary of state’s office regarding a close legislative race says: “We are advised by the attorney general that state law makes no provision for the challenge of ballots or voters (as provided in RCW 29.10.125) during the recount.”
While Republicans claim the memo shows hypocrisy by Gregoire, Brost and Gregoire said that memo referred to legal advice from previous state attorneys general, not from Gregoire.
"Sorry, my office never opined on this issue and there is no memo written in the history of my office on the subject," Gregoire said Wednesday
Officials say the hand recount should be complete by Dec. 23. If the Supreme Court grants the Democrats’ request to reconsider invalidated ballots, officials say the governor’s race will stretch into 2005.
Gregoire, 57, the state’s three-term attorney general, is best known for her successful battle with the tobacco industry. Rossi, 45, is a self-made millionaire and a former state Senate budget chairman.
Meanwhile, election officials across the state are busy hiring temporary workers and getting ready for the tedious and time-consuming work of the hand recount.
On Tuesday, King County moved 900,000 ballots to an office in Tukwila
that will serve as the hand-recount center. The boxes of ballots were
loaded into trucks, under the watchful eyes of an armed police escort
and the ever-present political observers.
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