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We're in the long, ballot-counting time in Washington state, but when we finally get to the other side, Murray should have it with a two- or three-point lead. But it could be several days before we know for sure. Why does it take so long? All of Washington votes by mail, except for parts of one Puget Sound area county, Pierce, though a few voting centers where you can vote traditionally are open in King County. Ballots only have to be post-marked by 8:00 p.m. election day to be counted. So there are still ballots from around the state out there in the postal system, waiting to be returned and processed.

(For a really good overview of how all this works, see N in Seattle's diary, which is the first in what will hopefully be a short series on the ballot counting.)

Thus, one of the difficulties in projecting turnout, and vote margins, is that, as a staffer for the Secretary of State's office says, "No one knows how many ballots are left to count, since large volumes are in the mail and final return rate isn't knowable."

Exact numbers are tricky to come by, but we'll take a stab. Prior to the election, the secretary of state estimated that about 60 percent of the total vote would be tallied Nov. 2. That would leave about 572,000 ballots remaining. King County officials say there could be about 350,000 votes still to count from the state's largest county, which Murray was winning by more than a 60 percent margin.

Where can Rossi pick up votes? Places like Spokane and Clark County, which were favoring the Republican. In Spokane, there are about 100,000 ballots left to count, officials estimate. Rossi was winning 56 percent of the votes there. There also appeared to be about 100,000 votes left to county in Clark County, where Rossi was winning 54 percent of the vote.

University of Washington political science professor and polling expert Matt Barreto predicted late last night that Murray would win 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent.

What we do know for sure, there was absolutely no enthusiasm gap in heavily Democratic Seattle last night, as people waited in line for as long as three hours in the handful of King County polling places, and to drop off their ballots in ballot boxes. There isn't an official estimate yet on King County turn out will be, but all indications are that it's pretty massive. So, however much Rossi may get in Spokane or Clark, he's very unlikely to be able to offset King.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 01:32 PM PDT.

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