Gregoire says it is too early to declare herself the state's next governor; Republicans refused to admit defeat.
SEATTLE — It was a great day for Democrats — and cause for fighting words from Republicans.
First the state Supreme Court ruled that King County, a stronghold for Democrat Christine Gregoire, can add hundreds of previously disqualified ballots to a hand recount of the unbelievably close governor’s race.
Then unofficial recount results from King County gave Gregoire a 10-vote margin of victory over Republican Dino Rossi — who won the first tally by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42.
Gregoire hailed the Supreme Court’s decision as “a victory for everyone who believes that every legitimate vote should be counted,” but said it was too early to declare herself the state’s next governor.
“Although we’re ahead right now, there are still hundreds of votes left to be counted in King County,” Gregoire, the state’s three-term attorney general, said at a news conference in Seattle. “Once King County is able to fix their mistake, count the votes and certify the results we will know who the next governor for the state of Washington is.”
King County’s preliminary results did not include up to 735 ballots that were mistakenly rejected because election workers skipped a step in verifying voters’ signatures.
Those ballots will be added to King County’s total on Thursday and are expected to favor Gregoire.
Republicans refused to admit defeat.
“When Christine Gregoire was 261 and then 42 votes behind, she referred to it as a tie,” Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said. “We’re not going to call this a tie, but it is extremely close. It’s certainly too close to call and Dino is not conceding.”
Lane and state GOP Chairman Chris Vance said the party planned to go all over the state asking canvassing boards to take another look at ballots the party believes were erroneously rejected.
“If the rules are going to be changed for a select group in King County, it only seems logical that the rules are changed for everyone, including military voters overseas,” Lane said.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican who backed the Democrats’ bid to add any valid disputed ballots to King County’s recount, said it’s too late for counties that have already certified results to recanvass their returns.
“He’s wrong,” Vance said, noting that Thurston County certified its results last week, then changed them to add one Gregoire vote. “This battle is not over. This election is not over.”
Trovah Hutchins, Reed’s spokeswoman, said the secretary of state’s office advised Thurston County against changing its certified results. “Our reading of the law is that it’s very clear, and that you cannot go back after a county has certified and begin adding votes back into the process.”
Kirstin Brost, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said Republicans should accept the results of the hand recount — the last one allowed under state law.
“We asked for a hand count because we knew machines make mistakes,” Brost said. “We believe that the hand count is the most accurate count, and we’re very excited by these results.”
Echoing a refrain Democrats have used repeatedly in recent weeks, Lane said: “We think it’s our duty to make sure no voter is disenfranchised.”
Then came the dig: “Every vote should count — not just because you’re a Democrat in King County, but your vote should count wherever you live in this state.”
King County Councilman Larry Phillips, a Democrat, was shocked earlier this month when he found his name on a list of voters whose ballots had been disqualified.
He breathed a sigh of relief after the high court ruled King County could correct the mistake and see how many other people on that list had cast legitimate votes.
“I’ve always assumed my vote’s going to count,” Phillips said. “That turned out to be the case even though it took a long time to get there.”