OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected the Democratic Party's request that previously rejected absentee and provisional ballots be included in the hand recount of Washington state's contested governor's race.
Republican Dino Rossi won the Nov. 2 election by 261 votes and held a 42-vote lead over Democrat Christine Gregoire after the first, machine recount.
In a written opinion, the high court said that under state law, "ballots are to be 'retabulated' only if they have been previously counted or tallied" -- excluding those that had been disqualified by canvassing boards.
The decision does not affect the 561 uncounted ballots in King County that were discovered Sunday to have been wrongly rejected because of mistakes by election workers. Those ballots go to a canvassing board today for verification and could tip the balance toward Gregoire, who claimed 58% of the vote in the Democratic stronghold, which includes Seattle.
"The most likely outcome is Dino wins the hand recount, but we continue to worry about what's next in King County," said state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance.
The state Democratic Party filed its lawsuit with the Supreme Court the same day it demanded a hand recount, which began last week.
The lawsuit sought to force county officials to reconsider ballots that had been rejected, notably in King County. Some weren't counted because the signature on a mail-in ballot did not match the signature on file and the voter didn't correct the record in time.
"We are mindful that King County rejected a higher percentage of signatures than did other counties," the justices wrote, but noted that it was not clear why that was the case.
Vance praised the ruling. "We thought all along we had the law on our side, but it's good to see it actually happen," Vance said.
David Burman, the Democrats' attorney, has estimated that 3,000 ballots were wrongly rejected and should be included in the hand recount. Two-thirds are from King County.