December 3, 2008 in City

Recount under way

First count had 6th District race decided by tiny margin
By The Spokesman-Review
Photos by Dan Pelle photo

John Ahern watches election workers and observers during a ballot recount in the 6th Legislative District race between Ahern and John Driscoll at the Spokane County Elections Office on Tuesday. Below, Cindy Zapotocky, a Republican Party observer, gets a close view.
(Full-size photo)

Teams of election workers, watched by partisan observers, began recounting nearly 76,000 ballots in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District on Tuesday to determine whether a Democrat will oust the Republican incumbent in the state House.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton told the teams they were involved in a “double blind” process to check vote totals that have John Driscoll ahead of Rep. John Ahern by 74 votes.

Each table with two election workers, one Republican observer and one Democratic observer would be given the ballots from a precinct, which could have as many as 1,600 ballots or as few as 42. The election workers, who don’t know the official count for any of the precincts, were told to make separate piles of ballots for Ahern, Driscoll, any write-in candidates, any ballots with no choice in that House race, and any ballots with more than one candidate marked. Each worker was to count the ballots in each pile, write down the total without conferring, then give the separate totals to a supervisor.

“If they match, great. If they don’t match, you’re going to recount,” Dalton said.

When the vote totals for a precinct matched, supervisors would compare them with the official counts that were certified last week. By the end of the afternoon, they had counted nearly 14,500 ballots from 21 precincts and had no changes from the original totals.

Observers had to stay an arms-length from the counting table and weren’t allowed to talk to the ballot counters. But they could raise questions about anything they saw through party supervisors who could bring it up with the elections staff.

The observers could keep track of the counts at their table but weren’t allowed to have copies of the official count, to make sure the elections workers wouldn’t know a target they were supposed to meet, Dalton said.

Talking was kept to a minimum, and most of the time the room was filled with the sound of fingers riffling through paper or piles of ballots being stacked or straightened.

Ahern watched the recount for about an hour from an adjoining room. Driscoll was in Olympia at legislative caucus meetings, his campaign manager, Meagan Quinn, said.

Elections workers weren’t going to be counting ballot envelopes or comparing signatures on the envelopes with the signatures on voter registration forms, Dalton said.

“This is a recount of ballots that were tabulated,” she said.

The recount should be finished late today or Thursday, Dalton said.

Jim Camden can be reached at (509) 459-5461 or by e-mail at

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