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As afternoon turned to evening on Wednesday, Washington state held its collective breath as the final tallies of absentee and provisional ballots flowed into Olympia and out over the web.  In the end, after 2,882,435 valid ballots were counted, Dino Rossi (R-gladhanding stealth wingnut) led Christine Gregoire (D-triangulating equivocator) by some 261 votes.  That's a difference of 0.009% of the total.

I ran a series of day-by-day diary entries as the post-Election Day counting continued, discussing the results of each day's newly-tallied ballots and updating my projections of the final outcome based on each new set of ballots.  Here are links to the entire collection:

Monday, November 8
Tuesday, November 9 (morning)
Tuesday, November 9 (evening)
Wednesday, November 10
Thursday, November 11
Friday, November 12
Monday, November 15
Tuesday, November 16 (early evening)
Tuesday, November 16 (night)

But, until now, I didn't write a report on the Wednesday results.  Before moving on to the upcoming recount, I wanted to close the books on the first count of ballots.

Going into the final day, Rossi led by only 19 votes.  Based on each county's estimated number of outstanding ballots, coupled with each county's to-date vote percentages for Gregoire, Rossi, and Libertarian Ruth Bennett, I projected that Rossi would eventually receive 519 more votes than Gregoire.  That projection assumed that the estimate of 6577 remaining ballots to be tallied was accurate.  Note that between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, King County's estimate rose from 1000 to 1450, explaining the discrepancy between the projection I made on Tuesday (a 599-vote margin) and what I present here.  Going into the final day, there were estimated to be approximately the same number of uncounted ballots in counties where Gregoire led and those with Rossi leads -- the largest numbers were in King (1450, Gregoire), Grays Harbor (1221, Gregoire), Benton (750, Rossi), and Stevens (600, Rossi).

As the count progressed on Wednesday, Rossi's lead fluctuated until King County came in in mid-afternoon.  At that point, Gregoire took a small lead, which was erased by some pro-Rossi counties.  When the next-to-last county, Grays Harbor, reported its tally, Gregoire was once again in the lead, by 13 votes.  Benton County, a heavily Republican area, came in last, reversing the lead once again.

For those of us looking at the day-to-day changes, it was very exciting.  There was good news when, say, Columbia County turned in far fewer new votes than had been estimated -- getting 33% of 160 votes is a lot better than 33% of 285, though that report still increased Gregoire's deficit by 48 votes.  Another seemingly-positive sign was that Gregoire outpolled Rossi for the day in Pierce and Spokane, and that both sent in more votes than they'd estimated; she picked up 24 votes there.  She also came within one vote of Rossi's total in Clark County.

Of the "big four" mentioned earlier, Stevens County was the first to report -- 677 ballots rather than 600, and an even stronger Rossi margin (64.6% to 31.8%) than in previous tallies, netting 202 votes in his favor.  Before the next of the four reported, there was a surprise from Skagit County, which reported 645 new votes, far above its estimate of 200 and also somewhat stronger for Rossi than in earlier results ... add 51 net votes to his edge.  King County gave Gregoire a much higher percentage than she'd been receiving there -- 64.7% of the day's votes (she'd been at 57.7%), but turned in only 1446 new ballots.  The net Gregoire margin for the day in King County was 446 votes.

Grays Harbor was, without a doubt, the best news of the day for Gregoire.  Going into the day, her overall lead in the county was quite small -- 49.3% to 48.7%.  On Wednesday, however, she got 51.3% in the county, to Rossi's 46.1%.  Furthermore, Grays Harbor reported nearly twice as many new ballots as they had estimated -- 2060 in total, giving Gregoire a 105-vote net advantage.  

Benton County finished it off with a flourish.  Not only did the county report exactly the same 750 new ballots as they had estimated, they went for Rossi even more overwhelmingly than they had been doing all along.  Rossi came into the day with a 68.2% to 30.1% lead in Benton, and then won the final day's tally with a crushing 69.2% to 28.0% outcome.  Ugh.  All in all, that netted him a 274-vote margin in the county, changing that 13-vote Gregoire lead into the eventual 261-vote margin for Rossi.

Because the difference exceeds 150 votes, the mandatory recount will be automated rather than manual.  So the ballots will be fed through the same scanners once again.  This one should be completed before Thanksgiving.  After that, the Secretary of State will certify the result on December 2, at which point either campaign can request another recount.  This time, however, the campaign would have to put down a deposit to pay for the recount -- $0.15 per ballot for another automated recount, $0.25 per ballot for a manual count.  If the result is reversed, they'll be reimbursed.  I'm fairly certain that any requested recount must be on the entire state, not county-by-county.

Several factors remain uncertain, at least in my mind.  I think it's possible that Grays Harbor County, which discovered irregularities in its tally on Monday and then started over from scratch, may have missed some ballots.  The county's turnout was only 77.1%, some 5% lower than the overall state figure, and also much lower than any of the other seven counties that favored Gregoire over Rossi.  In general, turnout in the Gregoire counties was 1.5% higher than in Rossi counties, so it seems unusual that Grays Harbor was low.  A more ubiquitous question is whether ballots arriving at county elections offices after Wednesday will be counted during the recount.  Similarly, I wonder whether rejected provisional and absentee ballots will be re-examined ... if the voter added a missing signature to the outer envelope on Thursday, would that ballot then become valid?

I believe there will also be a mandatory automated recount in one State Representative race.  In Position 2 of the 28th Legislative District (Pierce County, west of Tacoma), Dean Dozen Democrat Tami Green received 23,697 votes (50.249%), and incumbent Republican Bob Lawrence got 23,462 (49.751%).  That 235-vote difference translates to a margin of 0.498%, just inside the 0.5% threshold triggering a mandatory recount.  I feel duty-bound to report that had Green received one more vote, her margin would have been 0.503%.

When the gubernatorial recount gets started, I'll continue updating the dKos community on the race.  And when this thing finally ends -- it will, eventually -- I hope to write a report on the bigger picture of the 2004 election cycle in Washington.  I'm putting together a county-by-county voting database of the results in the presidential, senatorial, statewide, and state legislative races.  I'm interested in (among other things) the county-specific differences in percentages garnered by Kerry, Murray, Gregoire, and other candidates; the effect of the Libertarians and other fringe candidates; the relative proportions of ballots left blank and/or with write-ins.

Much more to come...

Originally posted to Peace Tree Farm on Fri Nov 19, 2004 at 05:36 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (4.00)
    And of course, if you want to recommend, I'm cool with that.  

    Hey, DemFromCT, weren't you thinking of promoting this sort of report?

    You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

    by N in Seattle on Fri Nov 19, 2004 at 05:33:49 PM PST

  •  Wow! (none)
    You've done an amazing amout of work on this.  I've been trying to keep up with it in the news, but the vote counts shifting day by day were driving me batty.
    Thank you and I'm looking forward to the final wrap up.

    It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

    by TheOtherWashington on Fri Nov 19, 2004 at 05:36:31 PM PST

  •  way appreciative (none)
    and i rec'd this diary too.  seriously excellent stuff.

    what's your gut about the likeliehood that gregoire can pull out a victory in the recount?

    tw, great parenthetical assessments of the two candidates --> gladhanding vs triangulating.

    "...the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." HL Mencken

    by dadanation on Fri Nov 19, 2004 at 05:51:26 PM PST

  •  Nice Work (none)
    I've enjoyed your posts on this topic.  They've been timely, insightful and interesting.  So what's your prediction on the recount?
  •  predictions? (none)
    Beats the hell out of me how this thing will come out.  Four years ago, Maria Cantwell gained 277 votes in the recount, but she was leading going into it.  Most recounts in WA have seen smaller changes than that.

    Washington's history is that elections appear to have been pretty clean.  OTOH, state Dem chair Paul Berendt sent out an email today that included this:

    As someone who has worked on elections my entire life, I am alarmed by what we have learned.

    ·        Many of you reported problems with voting machines in your precinct on Election Day.  In a few instances we have received reports of ballot counting machines breaking down.  We must make sure that these votes are accurately recorded.

    ·        We have reports of precincts that have reported more votes than the precinct has registered voters.

    ·        In King County, three precincts checked their machine counts against manual counts.  Where voters had checked their candidate instead of filling out the oval, the machine count failed to count their vote.  

    ·        The data we are collecting from auditors includes typos, and other incorrect or missing information.  In each instance we need to track down the source of the problem.  They could represent simple mistakes in reporting or worse, they could represent uncounted votes.

    One other point I forgot to mention is the progression of daily leads and projections that I (and others) came up with.  From them, you can see why I've been writing so much about this race.

    What follows is each day's interim vote difference between Gregoire and Rossi, followed by the day's projected final outcome:

    Mon, Nov 8 -- Gregoire +8736 / Rossi +626
    Tue, Nov 9 -- Rossi +2123 / Rossi +3097
    Wed, Nov 10 -- Rossi +3492 / Rossi +4401
    Thu, Nov 11 -- Rossi +3586 /Rossi +4495
    Fri, Nov 12 -- Rossi +1920 / Rossi +3403
    Mon, Nov 15 -- Gregoire +158 / Rossi +1430
    Tue, Nov 16 -- Gregoire +19 / Rossi +519

    You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

    by N in Seattle on Fri Nov 19, 2004 at 06:18:09 PM PST

  •  GOP will play hardball (none)
    Huge war council, Ben Ginsburg, et al.

    There are a lot of squishy legal on recounts. Find a double-counted batch, for instance, and it should only be counted once on recount ... but an omitted batch might become grist for major legal conflict (with parties choosing sides depending on where it falls): does "recount" mean "count the same ballots over again?

    It's a heck of a time to fund a manual recount, and the prospects of manual recount changing the outcome (if machine recount doesn't) are mighty slim.

    I hate to be this cynical, but Berendt's plea for recount contributions reeks of yet another generic horror story fundraising pitch.

    Speaking of horror story fundraising pitches, US Rep Jim McDermott (D-F911) has decided to appeal the brutal penalty decision against him in US Rep John Boehner's (R-Sleazeville) invasion of privacy suit. I've diaried this before, will have more later, but the precedent-setting case has big time First Amendment, public integrity, Federalist Papers and congressional ethics implications, and the bad guys are out for blood ... and it's a potential million-dollar funding task for a guy whose pockets are not that deep.

    In other news, word is that Sen. Maria Cantwell will adhere to her 2000 "no PAC money" pledge (despite dramatic changes in the CFR landscape) ... which puts another multi-million-dollar grassroots funding effort in play.

  •  Terrific work (none)
    I read each of the installments with great interest.  Thank you for such solid analysis.
  •  Thank you! (none)
    Now I'm off to send this out to everyone in Port Angeles.  

    Your work is greatly appreciated.

    Susan in Port Angeles (my cat)

    by SusanHu on Fri Nov 19, 2004 at 08:39:09 PM PST

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