After Spokane County officials finished a hand recount Friday afternoon, Republican Dino Rossi came up with seven additional votes in Spokane County for a total of 105,584 – nearly 53 percent.
His opponent, Democrat Christine Gregoire, received 90,581 votes, 45 percent of the total.
Spokane was the second to the last county to finish its manual recount this week. The process yielded 41 ballots with unusual markings, which took the canvassing board more than two hours Friday afternoon to decipher.
“We see all sorts of creative and interesting activity on the ballots,” Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said as the board tried to determine the voters’ intent.
Some voters filled in two ovals, but crossed one out. Others marked one oval, but also partially filled in another. And some didn’t fill in any of the ovals but instead circled a candidate’s party.
There were also a few instances when ink from one side of the ballot bled through to the other. In one case, one voter marked the oval for Dino Rossi, but also filled in the oval for a write-in candidate without actually putting down a name.
Because of the unusual markings, all these ballots couldn’t be read correctly by a machine.
Deciphering the voters’ intent turned out to be a time-consuming process for the board, which sometimes spent as much as 10 minutes on a single ballot.
“It’s an awesome responsibility,” said Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris, who served on the canvassing board along with Dalton and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jim Emacio.
Observers from both the Republican and Democratic parties also came to the elections office to watch the process.
“Did the X come first or the oval?” Harris asked as he held a ballot close to his face. “It’s good we don’t have a rule that says you have to stay within the lines.”
“We serve the entire spectrum of society so it can be someone having difficulty following directions,” Dalton explained. “Some people understand instructions better than others.”
In the end, Dalton said she and her staff learned a great deal from the recount. Out of about 140,000 absentee ballots, they made mistakes on only four, she said, but they likely will get more training in handling those votes.
“We need to do a lot more training with the voters on how to mark their ballots,” she said.