Hearing on Rossi's election challenge postponed
AP, Dino Rossi
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hope for a speedy resolution to the uncertainty surrounding the governor’s election seems to be fading fast.
On the same day Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire was inaugurated, a new judge was assigned to Republican Dino Rossi’s election challenge.
Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges on Wednesday granted motions by the Democratic and Libertarian parties to intervene in Rossi’s case. A preliminary hearing was rescheduled from Friday to next Thursday, Jan. 20.
“We hope the Democrats aren’t going to try to stall this thing,” Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said. “That’s not going to be met with a lot of good feeling from the people of Washington.”
At stake is not only the fate of the election, but whether Democrats will get back the $730,000 they paid for the hand recount. State law allows a party to pay for a hand recount in close races, which the Democrats did after Rossi won a machine recount by 42 votes. State law also says that if the hand recount reverses the results of the election, as it did for Gregoire, the state has to pay back the money.
But Secretary of State Sam Reed is holding on to the Democrats’ deposit until the courts rule on the ultimate outcome of the election.
“Until the election contest proceedings are resolved, no one can be certain of whether or not the recount in fact changed the result of the Nov. 2, 2004, Gov.’s election,” Thomas Ahearne, attorney for the secretary of state’s office, wrote to the Democrats.
On Wednesday, Judge T.W. “Chip” Small — one of three Chelan County Superior Court judges — was removed from the case at the request of Franklin County. The county didn’t give a reason for the request. All 39 counties are being sued in Rossi’s election challenge, along with Secretary of State Sam Reed, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.
The Jan. 20 hearing will deal mostly with scheduling, not the underlying issues. Republicans are pressing for a quick discovery process, while Democrats say they believe discovery won’t be necessary if the court gets to the underlying constitutional issues first.
Both sides outlined their cases in briefs filed with the court this week. Republicans contend that a variety of mistakes and discrepancies in the election, from dead voters to illegally cast provisional ballots, have spoiled the election to the point that a winner can never be determined. Rossi is calling for a revote.
“The People of the State of Washington deserve a fair election, and they deserve to have the true results of such an election determined in a timely manner,” GOP attorney Harry Korrell wrote in a motion for expedited discovery.
Democrats argue that while the election had some flaws, it was accurate and should not be nullified.
“Based solely on alleged miscellaneous errors Petitioners (the Republicans) ask this court to simply set aside the most expensive election in Washington state history and order that it be done again,” the Democrats’ motion to intervene said. “This election contest is unfounded in fact and law.”
Several private citizens have also filed their own election challenges with the courts. All the challenges are expected to end up before the state Supreme Court, eventually.
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