December 8, 2011 in City

Recounts confirm returns; hand count still to come

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush, left, watches elections manager Mike McLaughlin view ballots during a recount Wednesday at the Spokane County Elections Office. The recount involved Rush’s race with Mike Allen.
(Full-size photo)

What’s next

The hand recount in the Rush-Allen race will start on Tuesday. Results will be finalized Dec. 16.

Mike Allen’s lead over Richard Rush grew by three votes, to 91, on Wednesday after a recount in the Spokane City Council election for the city’s south district.

But the race still isn’t over.

Rush, the incumbent, says he still will pursue a hand recount in the race. The cost, $6,240, has been covered by the Spokane County Democratic Party.

By state law, the race was recounted by machine because the margin fell within half a percentage point. Had it been within a quarter of a percentage point, the race would have been recounted by hand at no cost to Rush.

Meanwhile, results of a hand recount in the 4th Legislative District state Senate race, which also was completed Wednesday, may not give Rush hope for much change.

In that race, now-former state Sen. Jeff Baxter paid $1,774 to have 10 precincts recounted in his race against state Sen. Mike Padden. Election workers who tallied the ballots Wednesday morning found two errors. Baxter lost a vote, and one vote that had been counted as blank was changed to a write-in, for the candidate “N/A.”

That means in the final count, which was certified Wednesday afternoon by the Spokane County Canvassing Board, Baxter lost to Padden by 3,638 votes – instead of the original gap of 3,637.

Baxter said he paid for the recount with his personal money and did so because results in some precincts conflicted with data campaign workers collected when going door-to-door. The outcome hints that in a future race, volunteers need to do a better job reaching voters when they’re home, he said.

“I didn’t think anything insidious was going on,” said Baxter, who said he hasn’t decided if he will run next year. “I’m just saying that we need to work a little harder in different precincts.”

In the Allen-Rush race, Rush’s tally was found to be too high by two and Allen gained a vote after a ballot that had been counted as blank was found to have been marked for Allen.

Election Manager Mike McLaughlin said he can’t say for sure why Rush’s count fell by two and Baxter’s by one. One possibility is that after paper jams occurred in the machines in the original count, ballots that already had been counted may have been sent through accidentally a second time, he said.

“It’s why we have recounts, so we can go back through and make sure it’s as accurate as possible,” said Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton.

Each campaign involved in the two recounts had observers at the Elections Office.

Last week, Rush indicated that Baxter may have paid for a recount to prevent Rush’s race from being recounted by hand. Dalton originally requested that the City Council race be counted by hand to test new scanners in the county’s vote-counting machines. But she and the Canvassing Board changed course after Baxter opted to pay for a recount in his race.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with his race,” Baxter said. “I don’t have the time to be playing those games.”

Allen and Rush were on hand for much of the recount Wednesday morning. Baxter and Padden did not attend.

Allen, who was backed by the Spokane County Republican Party, said after observing the process that he has gained faith in the Elections Office, which is led by Dalton, a Democrat.

“I’ve got to give Vicky a lot of credit,” Allen said. “She runs a tight ship.”

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