PORT ORCHARD — The two candidates seeking to replace Jan Angel as the 26th Legislative District’s state senator will have to wait a tad longer — the final election results from Nov. 6 must undergo a manual recount before a winner can be certified.
Final results certified by Kitsap and Pierce counties Tuesday, Nov. 27 showed that Democrat Emily Randall had edged past her challenger, Republican Marty McClendon, by a vote count of 35,087-34,983, or a 50.07 to 49.93 percent margin. But the 104-vote margin between the two candidates has necessitated a manual recount, as mandated by state law and directed by the state Secretary of State office.
A manual recount is required should the margin between the top two candidates fall below 150 votes and be less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the total votes cast for both candidates. A machine recount is mandated should the difference between the top two candidates fall under 2,000 votes and be less than one-half of 1 percent of the total number of votes for both candidates.
Erich Ebel, communications director for Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office, said he expects an agreement to come on Nov. 29 from Wyman and the two counties’ election offices for a ballot recount, most likely to take place next week.
A number of procedural steps will need to be taken before a recount can begin, Kitsap County Auditor Delores Gilmore said.
“If the state Senate race stays in the recount range, the Secretary of State then calls for a recount,” Gilmore said.
Once the counties are notified by the state of the recount, they will need to notify Randall and McClendon. A legal notice will be placed and then temporary workers will be hired to recount the ballots by hand, should the margin remain under 150 votes. The county auditor said she expects between 24 and 30 people will manually count the ballots from Kitsap County.
Although 122,140 ballots were cast in Kitsap County, voters registered within the 26th Legislative District — 59 precincts — made up just 33,446 of the total.
“Because it’s just in the 26th district, on our first day or two, we would need to gather all those ballots and sort them by precinct instead of going through a mixed batch,” Gilmore said. “Our goal will be to do the actual manual count and try to get that done in one day, then be able to certify the count the next day.”
Gilmore’s counterparts in Pierce County are also following the same procedures in preparing to recount the votes.
Shortly after the initial election ballots were tallied, the county’s Election Division sent out letters to voters who had either neglected to add signatures to their ballot envelopes, or added a signature that didn’t match the copy on file.
On Monday, she said the county’s canvassing board sorted through the ballots with signature issues. If voters with questionable signatures — or no signature — provided an updated imprint by the end of the day on Nov. 26, their votes would be counted.
While election recounts are unusual, they aren’t unprecedented. Ebel of the secretary of state’s office said the 26th district’s recount is one of three — all to be manually counted — mandated by state law as a result of the general election returns earlier this month. Two of those races are for legislative seats in the 42nd District.
“Races that fall within the recount range are a common occurrence,” he said. “We keep an eye on those things [on Election Night] and prepare ourselves for whether or not a race is going to have to be recounted.”
In the 2011 general election for Port Orchard mayor, incumbent Lary Coppola was defeated by four votes. His opponent, Tim Matthes, was elevated to the mayoral seat when a manual recount confirmed the win.
And in 2004, Republican Dino Rossi was ahead by just 261 votes in front of Democrat Christine Gregoire after votes were counted from among 3 million ballots cast. A legally required electronic re-scan of ballots narrowed Rossi’s lead to 42 votes.
A state Democratic Party-requested hand recount, however, put Gregoire ahead by 10 votes. In addition to giving her the lead, the hand recount also uncovered hundreds of missing ballots, sending the Democrats to the state Supreme Court asking that those votes get counted. The court-mandated count boosted her lead to 129 votes. The Republican Party then sued, but yet another recount added four votes to her total.