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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Local Democrats rejoice, Republicans grouse as election dispute is laid to rest

Spokane-area Democrats rejoiced Monday while local Republicans ducked questions about the end of the long-running dispute over last fall’s gubernatorial election.

Spokane County Democratic Party spokeswoman Diane Crow said she was heartened by Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges’ ruling in favor of her party. It’s time for Washington to put the 2004 election behind it, she said.

“This decision gives us a strong base to go forward,” Crow said, adding that Gov. Christine Gregoire has shown strength by moving forward with the state’s business even as the election case made its way through court.

Spokane County Republican Central Committee officials refused interview requests.

Instead, local GOP Chairman Mike Casey issued a brief statement after Republican candidate Dino Rossi conceded the election to Gregoire.

“It is a devastating day for all citizens in Washington. Unfortunately, we will continue to have tax-and-spend bills passed with Christine Gregoire in office,” the statement read. “We can only imagine how severe the impact will be once Christine Gregoire no longer needs to be concerned about the political consequences of increased taxation.”

The Democrats’ Crow used the ruling as an opportunity to praise local election workers, who she says did an excellent job of opening up the election process to the scrutiny of observers.

“I wish we would stop using the word ‘fraud.’ There have been errors, but this decision is a clear demonstration and testament to the professionalism of the county and the state election staff,” she said.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she agrees with many of the criticisms of the election process that were part of Bridges’ ruling.

“I think he’s right,” Dalton said. “The citizens expect a certain level of performance. As long as they don’t expect perfection, we do need to make some improvements.”

Even before the state Legislature took action on the issue, Spokane County was taking steps to prevent provisional ballots from being counted before being verified – a problem in the November election – by printing them on a different paper stock that can’t be fed into vote-counting machines, Dalton said.

Dalton also is examining training procedures and said she is exploring the possibility of going to a vote-by-mail system for the entire county.

“We’ve definitely seen the public trust in the election process eroded. That’s a really sad thing,” Dalton said, adding, “Will we all get better? Yes.”

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