It was a little bit like turning the computer off and pulling the old manual typewriter off the shelf. In a room the size of a gymnasium, 240 temporary workers sat down at tables...

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It was a little bit like turning the computer off and pulling the old manual typewriter off the shelf.

In a room the size of a gymnasium, 240 temporary workers sat down at tables yesterday and began counting King County ballots for governor the old-fashioned way: looking at each ballot and counting votes one by one.

The recount in Washington’s 39 counties will determine whether Democrat Christine Gregoire or Republican Dino Rossi becomes governor. Rossi’s 261-vote lead after the initial vote count was reduced to 42 votes in a machine recount.

Rossi maintained his lead over Gregoire yesterday as additional votes continued to show up during the statewide hand recount.

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The biggest difference in vote tallies was in Kitsap County, where the hand count recorded 161 additional votes.

Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn said she thinks one of the machines used in the previous counts did not see some ballots that were lightly marked by voters. “Those are the kinds of things picked up in a hand recount,” Flynn said. “We believe it has to do with the equipment being 10 years old, and it needs to be upgraded.”

So far, only smaller counties in the state have reported. Results from the state’s largest counties won’t come for several days. King County, with almost 900,000 ballots, isn’t expected to finish counting until Dec. 22.

At King County’s recount center in Tukwila, several dozen political-party observers watched as 80 three-member teams sorted votes into piles according to voters’ gubernatorial choices, then counted and recounted the piles.

Modern technology came into play only when two data-entry clerks plugged the numbers into computer spreadsheets.

Even that process was laboriously labor-intensive: A Republican and a Democratic observer watched over the shoulders of each clerk, who created a spreadsheet that would be compared with the other clerk’s for accuracy.

There was a constant hum of voices, and one supervisor asked counters at the 16 tables in her section to “keep the volume low. You’re not the only people at these tables, and people need to concentrate.”

Observers from the two largest parties said the vote counting in rented office-building space at Boeing Field seemed to go smoothly. Michael Nelson, an unsuccessful candidate for the Libertarian nomination for governor and an election observer, said he would have preferred that observers be allowed to sit at the counting tables.

About 60 partisan observers were restricted to watching the counting from designated areas behind ropes. Each counting team includes one worker chosen by the Democratic Party and one chosen by Republicans.

Don Whiting, a former state director of elections who was observing for the Secretary of State’s Office, called the hand recount a “hybrid” process in which results will be compared with results of the earlier machine recount and reconciled before they are officially reported.

In 130 precincts manually recounted in Thurston County, he said, the numbers were exactly the same as the machine recount except for six precincts where there was a one-vote difference and one precinct with a change of two votes.

“Which means that over 90 percent of their precincts are matching up exactly,” Whiting said.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or