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Fewer than 100 votes separate Democratic candidates in Washington state Senate race

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 20, 2020

By Paige Cornwell Seattle Times

The race for the 5th Legislative District state Senate seat, which attracted more than $3 million from outside groups and pits two Democrats against each other, is separated by less than 100 votes and is likely headed to a hand recount.

Incumbent state Sen. Mark Mullet is ahead of Ingrid Anderson by 55 votes out of 97,182 ballots counted as of Friday afternoon, according to King County Elections. The elections office will certify all race results Tuesday. But even with additional ballots brought in, the Mullet-Anderson race will still meet the criteria for a hand recount.

On Friday, both Anderson, who has 49.09% of the vote, and Mullet, who has 49.15%, sounded optimistic about the race. They planned to spend the weekend “ballot chasing,” a process of contacting voters in the district whose ballots were challenged and providing help so their ballots are counted. Forms from King County voters whose signatures were challenged — about 13,600 voters throughout the county — are due Monday.

Anderson said more than 200 volunteers and a handful of paid workers for her campaign are taking part in ballot chasing. On Thursday, they collected 30 challenge forms.

“I believe firmly, if we can get them, the votes are out there for me to win,” said Anderson, an Overlake Hospital psychiatric department nurse who lives outside Snoqualmie.

Anderson originally had a lead over Mullet in the race for the seat representing East King County, but Mullet passed Anderson two days after Election Day, initially by 18 votes. The two candidates remained separated by a razor-thin margin each day as King County Elections posted updated results. The race also had a significant number of write-in ballots, which account for 1.76% of the vote.

“I feel good,” said Mullet, an Issaquah resident who owns a Zeeks Pizza restaurant and three Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops. “We’re not declaring victory, we are going to wait until the elections get certified, but I would much rather be in my spot.”

In Washington state, races with a difference of fewer than 150 votes and a .25% difference in total votes trigger an automatic hand recount. Hand recounts involve a 15-step process, where teams of two count individual ballots by having one person look at a ballot and say the chosen candidate’s name aloud, then handing it to the second person, who confirms the name and puts the ballot in the appropriate pile.

The recount will likely take place in early December, King County Elections spokeswoman Hannah Kurowski said, and take about two weeks.

Any people involved will have their temperature checked because of the pandemic, and staff will be spread out and separated by plexiglass while counting to avoid the potential spread of the coronavirus.

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