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Governor's race goes to Supreme Court, but the saga will continue


By REBECCA COOK  / Associated Press

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday morning in a case that could decide the astoundingly close Washington governor's race.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, King County officials expect to finish their hand recount and report their results, the final county to do so.

Whatever happens, Wednesday's drama will probably not be the end of the epic 2004 governor's election ? just the beginning of a new chapter.

If Republican Dino Rossi loses the third count ? after winning the first two ? he may challenge the election in court. Republicans are already preparing for a possible legal challenge.

Democrat Christine Gregoire has promised to concede if she loses the recount. But on Tuesday her spokesman said if the Democrats lose the state Supreme Court case she may pursue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"If we're in that situation we'll talk about it," Gregoire spokesman Morton Brilliant said. "Throwing out ballots until you win is not the way to become governor."

The question before the state Supreme Court is whether King County should be allowed to add to the recount 700-plus ballots that weren't counted originally because of mistakes made by county election workers.

Rossi won the election by 261 votes, and won a machine recount by 42 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast. Democrats paid for a hand recount, which currently has Rossi 49 votes ahead of Gregoire.

King County's recount of 900,000 ballots could flip the results, even without the extra 723 newly discovered ballots ? basically making the Supreme Court case moot. But if Rossi is ahead after King County reports on Wednesday, the Supreme Court's decision will be very important. Though the 723 ballots haven't been counted, it's believed they would give Gregoire a boost larger than the current 49-vote margin.

A Pierce County judge on Friday granted the state Republican Party's motion for a temporary restraining order to stop King County from counting those newly discovered ballots. King County, the state Democratic Party and the Secretary of State appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

The court will be asked to interpret a state recanvassing law and their own ruling on another recount case last week. Then, the justices said a recount should simply be a retabulation of previously counted valid ballots ? subject to the provisions of the recanvassing law.

The recanvassing law says county canvassing boards can reconsider votes when there is "an apparent discrepancy or an inconsistency in the returns."

Some of the questions are: what's the definition of "discrepancy," "inconsistency," and "returns"? And does the recanvassing law even apply in this case?

The justices are being asked to revisit and clarify a previous decision, a request that sometimes inspires a touch of crankiness from judges who believed they were quite clear in the first place.

"They don't like cases like this, but this one is unavoidable," said University of Washington Political Science Professor David Olson. "If they didn't take this case there would be chaos."

Seven justices will hear the case. Three of the regular nine justices are out of town on previously scheduled trips, and one temporary judge will join the court.

About 350 people gathered Tuesday to show support for Rossi in front of the Supreme Court, at a rally sponsored by KVI, a conservative talk-radio station.

The crowd chanted "No new votes!" and "No more fraud!" They held signs saying "Welcome to Ukraine" and wore orange, a tribute to the signature color of demonstrators in Ukraine who protested a fraud-marred election there.

"They should not allow these votes that were not counted in the first place," said Shelley Weber of Olympia, a part-time school district worker who wore an orange hunting vest and carried a Republican Party flag. "They need to end it here. This is becoming really ridiculous."

A friend stopped to greet Weber and told her the latest Washington election joke:

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"


"Orange who?"

"Orange we done yet?"

Nope, not yet. And maybe not for a while.

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