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Washington State Governor's Race May Not Be Over

The race for governor in the western U.S. state of Washington has been won by Republican Dino Rossi, who edged out his opponent, Democrat Christine Gregoire, by just 42 votes in a ballot recount. One of the closest political races in U.S. history may not be over yet.

More than 2.8 million Washington State voters went to the polls November 2. After the ballots were counted, the Republicans had won the governorship by 261 votes. Because the election was so close, there was an automatic recount of the ballots by machine.

Tuesday, the Washington secretary of state certified Republican Dino Rossi as the winner by 42 votes, and Washington Republican Party chairman Chris Vance says the election should be over.

"Dino Rossi has been certified as the governor-elect by the secretary of state, but under our laws, the Democrats have three days to pay for another recount of all or part of the state in an effort to contest the election," he said. "We're hoping they won't do that, but in reality we know they will. So we'll probably still be counting ballots here when people are opening their Christmas presents."

For Democrats, the results are unclear, given a margin of error of at least one or two percent in any vote count. So they want the ballots counted again, this time in a hand count, says Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost.

"The only problem we have is that the statewide hand-count costs $750,000, just as a down payment, which has to be paid up front on Friday by 5 PM Pacific time," she noted.

So letters have gone out to Democrats asking for donations.

Democrats could ask for a recount of just a few of the voting precincts, and if the results are in their favor, the state government will pay the bill for a statewide recount. Spokeswoman Kirstin Brost says the party will ask for as much of a recount as it can afford.

"As we're saying, it's much better that we be patient and get it right than do it fast and get it wrong," she explained.

University of Washington political science professor David Olson says no one can predict how the recount will turn out because so far the results fall within the margin of error.

"From my perspective as a neutral observer of this scene, we could as equally get the two candidates together in a room, take out a quarter and flip a coin because basically this election is tied," said Mr. Olson. "And that 42 vote margin is meaningless in the context of 2.8 million plus votes."

He says, if either side goes to court, Washington residents will be lucky to know who their new governor is by January, when he or she is scheduled to take office.