Spokane County election officials took advantage Thursday of an opportunity to test their vote-counting machines for free.
The county Canvassing Board – Auditor Vicky Dalton, Commissioner Al French and County Attorney Jim Emacio – reversed course and decided to use the machines for a mandatory recount in a close Spokane City Council race.
When the election result was certified Tuesday, incumbent Richard Rush trailed Mike Allen by 88 votes, or 0.41 percent, among 24,960 ballots cast.
State law requires a government-paid recount when candidates are separated by fewer than 2,000 votes and less than one-half percent. The method is up to election officials.
The Canvassing Board had decided to count by hand to test the effectiveness of new ballot-scanning equipment that was installed before the primary election. The equipment passed tests devised by election officials, but “the general public is much more creative than we are,” Dalton said.
However, incumbent 4th District state Sen. Jeff Baxter subsequently requested a hand recount of 7,096 ballots in 10 precincts. Baxter lost to fellow Republican Mike Padden by nearly 10 percentage points.
Dalton said Baxter’s recount would be a sufficient test, and the county could save about $1,600 by using machines in the Rush-Allen recount.
Rush wanted a hand count and can still have one if he pays for it. Candidates who request hand recounts must put up a deposit of 25 cents per ballot and pay the actual cost, which elections supervisor Mike McLaughlin said usually is less than the deposit.
Baxter put down a deposit of $1,174 to recount 10 precincts.
The recounts are to be conducted on Tuesday and certified on Wednesday. Rush will have three days after that to decide whether he wants a hand recount, which Dalton estimates would cost $4,300.