The Republican effort to find votes for gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi is faltering as local election officials around the state — even loyal Republicans — are...
OLYMPIA — The Republican effort to find votes for gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi is faltering as local election officials around the state — even loyal Republicans — are rejecting calls to reconsider previously rejected ballots.
Four county canvassing boards have met so far this week, and all voted against reopening their counts in the closest governor’s race in state history. A fifth board canceled its scheduled meeting and won’t consider the Republican request.
The race is set to end, at least ceremoniously, tomorrow when Secretary of State Sam Reed certifies Democrat Christine Gregoire as governor-elect.
Republicans had hoped they could close the 129-vote margin and take the lead by going county to county to find votes for Rossi that they argue had been incorrectly rejected during three counts. (Last week the state reported the margin at 130 votes, but officials said Gregoire later lost a vote because Thurston County had improperly reopened its count to add an additional vote.)
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“As far as we know there are no counties at this time that have scheduled canvassing board meetings or are considering reopening certification,” said state elections director Nick Handy.
“I think that cycle is finished.”
Handy and Reed have urged local election officials not to reopen the counts, saying state law doesn’t allow reconsideration of ballots after counties have certified their recount results.
Gregoire’s victory margin grew from 10 to 129 after the King County Canvassing Board voted late last week to count 566 ballots that had been mistakenly rejected. The county had not yet certified its results, though the state’s other 38 counties had.
Republican State Chairman Chris Vance said last night he was disappointed in the canvassing board decisions.
“I don’t think it makes sense to people that King County is allowed to go back and look at ballots and no one else can,” Vance said. “All these legal technicalities aside, I just don’t think people understand that.”
He also criticized Reed, a fellow Republican, for “doing everything possible to discourage the counties from reopening their canvassing boards.”
Vance said Republicans could still contest the election results in court. They have until Jan. 20 to do that.
Vance said the party and the Rossi campaign don’t yet have enough information from counties, particularly King County, to make a decision on whether to go to court. He filed a public-information request yesterday with King County asking for details on the election count.
“We will not go away until we get answers to these questions,” he said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said he isn’t worried about Republican efforts to reopen the count.
“I think the air is going out of this,” he said.
In Lewis County yesterday the all-Republican canvassing board voted to reject the Republican request.
“It was unanimous but reluctant,” said Lewis County Auditor Gary Zandell. “All three canvassing board members are Republican officeholders, and I suspect our hearts and minds were with the Rossi campaign on this issue.
“But it just wasn’t to be. We’ve certified three times. There comes a time you’re done.”
The vote was also unanimous in Clark County yesterday, said Auditor Greg Kimsey. The board had requests from Republicans and Democrats, he said, but “but there was a unanimous decision not to take any action and we adjourned.”
The Grays Harbor Canvassing Board met Monday for its unanimous decision against reopening the count for 17 ballots Republicans wanted reconsidered.
“We took enough of a look at them to know we were satisfied with our initial decision and there was no reason to reopen discussion on those,” said Auditor Vern Spatz.
“We didn’t feel there were any errors or problems in the count and thought the ballots we counted were the proper ones.”
Kittitas County’s canvassing board also met and rejected the request to reconsider ballots, according to Handy. He also said Jefferson County canceled a board meeting it had scheduled and has no plans to meet again.
The state Supreme Court has made two recent rulings relating to the power of canvassing boards. The court ruled unanimously against a Democratic attempt to require all county canvassing boards to reconsider all previously rejected ballots.
Last week a second unanimous decision, this time ruling against Republicans, said county canvassing boards have discretionary power to reconsider previously rejected ballots if they find errors before certification.
Republicans had hoped that they could persuade canvassing boards to act before Reed’s certification. But Reed told auditors that the court ruling meant no new counting could happen after counties certified, which they all had done by last week.
David Postman: 360-943-9882 or firstname.lastname@example.org