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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Primary candidates want recount of 25 precincts to check for ‘anomalies’

Spokane County election workers LuAnn Bechtel and John Miffin inspect mailed ballots for crossouts and write-ins, November 7, 2007. Some candidates are asking for a hand recount of ballots from West Side precincts following this month’s primary. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – A group of candidates for U.S. Senate and House seats in Washington are challenging the results, and asking for a hand recount of ballots from what they think are suspicious West Side precincts in this month’s primary.

They say they may also challenge a state law that requires a person making such a request to pay 25 cents per ballot if the race isn’t so close state law requires an automatic recount. None of these races meet that standard.

The group, tentatively named Revive Washington, includes three unsuccessful candidates in the 29-person Senate race; the second- and third-place finisher in the 10th Congressional District; and one unsuccessful candidate each from the 1st and 9th districts. They include Republicans, a former Democrat-turned-independent and a Progressive. All but one was eliminated in the Aug. 7 top-two primary.

All made their requests to the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday, and elections officials in the affected counties will be notified this week. The precincts they want examined are in King, Pierce, Thurston and Snohomish counties.

“In looking through the data, we’re finding a lot of statistical anomalies that I think are suspicious,” said Doug Basler, who is asking for a hand recount of a precinct in King County from his race in the 9th Congressional District.

Basler ran against incumbent Democratic Rep. Adam Smith and another Democrat, Sarah Smith, in that primary. When the vote count finished on election night, he was almost 3,000 votes ahead of Sarah Smith; after votes mailed or placed in drop boxes on or just before Election Day were counted, he was slightly more than 3,000 votes behind, and Sarah Smith qualified for the general election against Adam Smith.

He also finds it suspicious that the percentage of the vote he received this year is similar to his runs for the same office in 2014 and 2016. Basler received 24.7 percent of the vote this year, 23.4 percent in 2016 and 27.2 percent in 2014. In each instance, however, Basler was the only Republican running in a heavily Democratic district.

Basler said one of the other unsuccessful candidates seeking recounts – Independent Progressive Tamborine Borrelli, running in the 10th District – bought thousands of television ads but only received 5.6 percent of the vote.

“That did not reflect the result I would expect,” he said.

Borrelli paid a deposit for a hand recount of eight precincts. Joseph Brumbles, the Republican who advanced to the general against Democratic incumbent Denny Heck, has asked for a recount of two.

The group has paid for hand recounts of 25 precincts to see if they match totals reported by the ballot tabulating machines.

They had to put up a deposit equal to 25 cents per ballot to be counted, and will be responsible for county costs if they run over that. The total came to just under $1,527.

None of candidates is seeking to count enough votes to change a primary result and qualify them for the general election ballot. Instead, they’re interested in transparency for voters, Basler said.

“There are many ways to hack the vote counting machines,” said Basler. “Everybody is like ‘Trust us.’ What we’re saying is ‘Show us the proof.’ ”

If there are anomalies, they may seek more recounts.

Initially, the group asked for a hand recount of the entire state for the U.S. Senate race, but at 25 cents a ballot, the deposit for that was $425,000. Basler said the group believes the fees are “exorbitant” and they may challenge the system in court as unconstitutional.