PORT ORCHARD — Election officials in Kitsap and Pierce counties were close to wrapping up a manual recount of ballots cast for the exceedingly tight 26th Legislative District’s state Senate seat race Thursday.
The combined county machine count vote total from the Nov. 6 election ended with Democrat Emily Randall holding a 104-vote lead over her challenger, Republican Marty McClendon.
Kitsap County Auditor Delores Gilmore said a temporary group of 28 manual ballot counters, assisted by two logistical helpers and seven regular office staff members, had just 7,867 ballots left to inspect and count, as of 1 p.m. Gilmore said she expects the count to be completed by the end of the day.
The ballot counters were accredited by the county canvassing board prior to beginning the count, David Frisk, Kitsap County Elections manager, said. The ballots were sorted into boxes segregated by precincts during preparatory work done Tuesday and Wednesday, Frisk said.
“The activity here has been steady throughout the day,” Frisk said Thursday while manning the recount operation at the Elections Division office in Port Orchard. “We’ve had observers from the two political parties and members of the general public here to watch.”
The elections manager said two individuals are counting ballots from each of the 26th District precincts and comparing results. Should there be a discrepancy, a second team of two counters would be brought in to conduct a recount. Frisk said the hand-counted ballot results from the second two-person team would take final preference over the initial machine-count results.
Gilmore said two ballots so far have been singled out as being unclear of the voters’ intent. Those ballots will be forwarded to the county’s canvassing board, which is to certify the results from the manual count when it meets at 9 a.m., Friday. A total of 33,531 ballots in Kitsap County had vote preferences marked for state Senate candidates in the 26th District. The Kitsap County votes counted earlier by machine totaled 17,112 for Randall, 16,362 for McClendon. Fifty-seven ballots included write-in names.
Pierce County’s Election Division also is expected to complete its manual recount either by the end of today or Friday morning. After ballots there were machine-counted prior to the manual recount, McClendon ended up with a slight lead over Randall, 18,621-17,975, or 646 votes. The two counties’ combined vote totals showed Randall prevailing slightly with 35,087 votes and McClendon with 34,983 votes. The Pierce County canvassing board will meet at 10:30 a.m., Friday to certify recount totals.