Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Friday, December 03, 2004

BREAKING NEWS: Washington State Governor's Race Recount to Happen

This just in: after two machine counts that brought the margin of victory for Republican Dino Rossi to 42 votes over Democrat Chrristine Gregoire, there's gonna be another count -- this time a hand recount -- in Washington State.

OLYMPIA - Washington Democrats, hoping the third time's the charm, will pay for yet another recount in the state's ultra-close governor's race that remains unsettled after more than a month.

The party also is heading to the state Supreme Court to seek a ruling that all ballots be treated the same from county to county. That would mean considering some previously uncounted ballots, particularly in Democratic-leaning King County.

Democrat Christine Gregoire, 57, best known for her successful battle with the tobacco industry as the state's three-term attorney general, trailed Republican Dino Rossi, 45, a former state Senate budget chairman, by just 42 votes after a machine recount was certified earlier this week.

Rossi won the initial vote count by 261 ballots, a margin so close it triggered the mandatory machine recount.

Republicans were outraged at the prospect of a third vote count and a legal battle.

"It sounds like they want to make Florida look like a tea party," complained Mary Lane, a Rossi spokeswoman. "It's outrageous, it's dangerous and it shows how little Christine Gregoire cares about the Democratic process. She will do virtually anything to try to win.

"We are not going to let this stand. We will not let her try to steal this election. Dino has won this election twice legitimately and Christine Gregoire is trying to overturn this election illegitimately."

State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said the party gave the secretary of state's office a cashier's check for $730,000 to order a recount of all 2.9 million votes cast for governor on Nov. 2 - not just votes in selected counties. A flood of online contributions this week allowed the party to pay for the hand count.

"We're going to count every vote in every county, whether it's a Rossi county or a Gregoire county," Berendt said in remarks prepared for a news conference with outgoing Gov. Gary Locke and former Gov. Booth Gardner, all Democrats.

Gregoire had told party leaders she was prepared to give up her quest for the governor's mansion if only a partial recount were ordered. "No games," she said Thursday.

The hand count is expected to cost the party over $1 million, including legal costs, and leaders said it was a backbreaking job to raise that kind of money in just a week.

Secretary of State Sam Reed is expected to order the new count on Monday and most counties are expected to begin the laborious job Wednesday. Reed said the count should be completed by Dec. 23 unless there are legal challenges.

I can't emphasize two things more strongly: one, how much more effective a hand recount is to a manual one, and two, how smart and right it was for Gregoire to push for a recount of all counties, and not just cherrypicked ones where she was more likely to find undercounted votes.