Former Appeals Court Judge Charlie Wiggins took a narrow lead over incumbent Justice Richard Sanders in Washington’s tight Supreme Court race Tuesday afternoon.
An analysis of voting patterns suggests Wiggins will finish ahead of Sanders and take his place on the state’s highest court when all remaining ballots are counted.
Sanders, an outspoken jurist with libertarian leanings, was first elected to the state’s highest court in 1995 and re-elected twice since. He has held a narrow lead since the Election Night.
But he has consistently trailed in King County, which has about one-third of the state’s voters, and a handful of other counties, mostly west of the Cascades. On Tuesday, King County tabulated about 45,000 of its outstanding ballots, and Wiggins inched ahead. Thirteen other counties also added to their totals, but Wiggins ended the night with a lead of about 3,600 votes.
Wiggins’ lead could grow to about 10,000 votes by the time all votes are
counted later this month, calculations by The Spokesman-Review show.
That’s because some 80,000 ballots — nearly half of all that county
elections officials estimate must still be counted — are in King
Two other counties where Sanders is leading still have significant
blocks of uncounted ballots. Spokane County estimates it has 26,000
ballots to count, and Snohomish County estimates it has 21,000. Because
ballots continue to trickle in to elections offices, the exact number of
outstanding ballots isn’t known.
County officials also have thousands of ballots that have been
temporarily rejected because voters either forgot to sign their
envelopes, or the signatures on the envelopes don’t match the signatures
in voter registration files.
Late last week, the Sanders campaign sent out an e-mail asking for funds
to help track down voters who either didn’t sign their ballots or had
signatures rejected because they don’t match registration files. Under
state law, those ballots can be accepted if voters sign an affidavit or
come to the county elections office. The e-mail included the message
“Don’t let Wiggins steal this election,” but Sanders told the Associated
Press Monday he didn’t write it or approve the suggestion that Wiggins
would steal the election.
Unless voting patterns change for the remaining tabulations, Wiggins
will win and the outcome will be above the threshold set for a mandatory
recount in the race.
Under state law, a recount is required in a statewide race when
candidates are separated by fewer than 2,000 votes and less than
one-half of 1 percent. If current trends hold, Sanders and Wiggins would
be separated by about slightly less than 10,000. Sanders could still
ask for a recount, but would have to pay for it unless the recount
reverses the result.