Two men file court challenges to governor's election

03:31 PM PST on Thursday, January 6, 2005

Associated Press
King 5 News

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Two people have filed challenges to the governor's election with the state Supreme Court, firing the first shots in the anticipated legal battle over the amazingly close contest.

Both challenge the legitimacy of Gov.-elect Christine Gregoire, a Democrat who lost the first two counts but beat Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes in a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots cast. Gregoire's inauguration is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Associated Press obtained copies of the election challenges from the Supreme Court on Thursday. Both seem to be the work of private citizens and neither bear obvious fingerprints of the state Republican Party. State GOP Chairman Chris Vance said he had nothing to do with the filings, and that party officials are still working on a possible court challenge of their own.

Daniel P. Stevens of Fall City sent the court a one-page notice saying he was contesting the election because the margin of victory is within the election's margin of error, "to the point that error must be assumed as a certainty."

Arthur Coday Jr. of Shoreline filed an 11-page brief arguing that the hand recount was fatally flawed for several reasons and asking the high court to inaugurate Rossi as governor.

Neither man responded immediately to interview requests on Thursday. Coday paid a $250 filing fee; the court has not yet received Stevens' filing fee so his notice hasn't officially been filed.

Vance said the two filings prove there's grass-roots support for a new governor's election.

"This election is going to be contested - it's inevitably going to happen," Vance said. "The best thing for the state of Washington would be for Christine Gregoire to join with Dino Rossi, skip the long-drawn out court battle, and schedule a revote."

Earlier this week, Gregoire called the idea of a revote "absolutely ludicrous."

State Republican Party officials have been steadily calling for a revote and gathering evidence for a possible court challenge, pointing out vote discrepancies in Democrat-leaning King County and elsewhere. A Republican radio ad running this week complains that some military voters stationed overseas didn't receiving their ballots in time.

However, county auditors and Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed have downplayed most of the GOP's complaints. They say most elections have similar discrepancies, which usually go unnoticed because most elections aren't as unnervingly close as this one.

State law allows any registered voter to contest an election on a number of grounds, including illegal votes. Neither Coday nor Stevens' filings refer to specific parts of the state law that governs election contests.

Stevens objects to the state law that allowed the Democratic Party to pay for a hand recount, saying it contradicts the constitutional requirement of free and equal elections. He alleges the state "erred dramatically" in the recount, and says state law should be changed to average the results of a hand recount with the previous two counts to get the final result.

"It is time to correct the horrible mistakes ... that have tainted the 2004 election in Washington State, and to strike down the unconstitutional laws that support this very undemocratic behavior," Stevens wrote.

These are the first two election contests received by the state Supreme Court. Other election challenges may have been filed with the lower courts in Washington's 39 counties.

The deadline for filing election challenges is 10 days after the Legislature issues a certificate of election, which is expected to happen next Tuesday.

Supreme Court Clerk C. J. Merritt said the court will wait until the filing period closes, then will decide what to do with the election challenges.



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