2016 Presidential Recount Recalls 2004 Recount in Washington

Washington State ballot
Photo: niyazz/123RF

A recount vote took place in the State of Washington that is eerily similar to the one now requested in the current vote for President in 2016.

The year was 2004 and the sitting Democratic governor, Gary Locke, was not running for re-election. Instead, one of his high officials, a woman named Christine Gregoire, was on the ballot. Running against her was prominent and wealthy Dino Rossi, a conservative Republican who had been active in the real estate business.

In the polls leading up to Election Day, Gregoire was well ahead, challenging Rossi on the true nature of his positions. Rossi was against Roe v. Wade and gay rights and said Creationism should be taught in public schools, and yet, to defeat Gregoire he had to appeal to Democrats unhappy with the Locke administration. And so he espoused some usual Democratic positions and Gregoire kept calling him out. She said just look at his record. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Nevertheless, Rossi closed the gap. At one point after he attacked the sitting governor and several prior governors for not doing much, Gregoire made a serious mistake. She said it was indeed true that it was time for a change. Also, during the campaign, Rossi brought up that when Gregoire was State Attorney General, her department had failed to file a timely appeal on a $17.8 million personal injury award decision against the state. Though not her fault, the state taxpayers had to pay, Rossi said.

With all that, when the approximately 2,800,000 votes were counted (about the same amount as in Wisconsin during this past Presidential election) Dino Rossi was declared the winner by a slender 261 votes. This was well within the rules that would lead to an automatic machine recount, and so one was done.

In the recount, Rossi won again, but this time by a lesser margin of only 42 votes. During the recount, workers found 162 un-tallied ballots in a tray in a warehouse. In another county, more ballots were discovered, but it was noticed that none had any voters whose last names began with the letters A, B or C. And in still another county 12 ballots were discovered in a precinct storage facility. Then a county council chairman, a Democrat, discovered that although he had voted, his personal vote had never been counted. Looking into it, he found that they had his vote, and they had his signature on his absentee ballot, but when they went to check whether his signature matched the signature on his Democratic registration, there was no registration signature in the computer system, so the vote was never counted. After that, hundreds of other voters were found to have suffered similar fates of “administrative error.”

With that, the Democrats demanded a hand recount. Further tussles occurred in court, but when the smoke cleared in late December, Christine Gregoire had won the election by just 8 votes, and then when more results came in it was 10 votes and, finally, 129 votes. Her election was certified on December 31, 2004.

And yet, the Republicans made one last try. They went to court in May of 2005, in part insisting they had found cases in some of the counties where dead people had voted and convicted felons had voted. But when it was shown, among other points, that almost all the convicted felons who had voted were convicted as minors and were thus allowed to vote and, furthermore, since most of these felons voted in counties that went for Rossi, the court ruled against the Republicans and they gave up.

Gregoire officially got 1,373,361 votes and Rossi got 1,373,228 votes. Gregoire was sworn in on January 12, 2005. Her opponent, however, did not concede the election until June 6, 2006 when the business about the felons and dead people and other issues might have gone up to the Washington State Supreme Court and Rossi’s people just said forget it. Four years later, Rossi challenged Gregoire again, and this time she trounced him.

This is just a little story you might want to know about.

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