The contest between U.S. Rep. Linda Smith and challenger Brian Baird almost certainly will be decided after a recount of ballots, a state official said Wednesday.
Smith had an 854-vote victory over her Democratic opponent in a final count of ballots certified by the nine counties in the 3rd Congressional District of southwest Washington - a margin slim enough to force a recount.
State law requires a recount if the difference in votes between two candidates is less than one-half of 1 percent. In this case, that would have amounted to about 1,200 votes.
Final returns showed Smith with 123,125 votes and Baird with 122,271 votes.
Pending a review of the counties’ totals, Secretary of State Ralph Munro expects to issue the call for a recount on Friday, spokesman David Brine said.
Brine said the recount should be completed by the middle of next week. The process will include a hand recount of a sampling of ballots in Thurston County to test a theory advanced by Democrats that the county’s counting machine may have malfunctioned, failing to record votes for Baird.
County officials said they expected to find no malfunction but wanted to ease the concerns of Democratic officials.
Earlier this week, state Sen. Kevin Quigley, a Lake Stevens Democrat, conceded defeat to Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf in the 2nd Congressional District race.
Following Nov. 5 voting, it appeared that contest also would go to a recount. But Metcalf built a steady lead as absentee ballots were counted, and had a lead of 1,311 votes with a few remaining ballots to be counted in Island County.
With all but one of the state’s nine congressional races decided, the Republicans appear to have lost just one of their seven seats to Democrats.
Democrat Adam Smith of SeaTac handily defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Tate, a freshman from Puyallup.
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