WENATCHEE, Wash. – A judge Friday refused to throw out a Republican challenge to the election of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire (search), saying voters deserve a full accounting of how the balloting was conducted.
The Democrats asked for a dismissal after the Republicans rested their case following four days of testimony aimed at proving that errors, illegal votes and fraud combined to deprive GOP candidate Dino Rossi (search) of victory last fall.
The Republicans are asking Superior Court Judge John Bridges to nullify Gregoire's 129-vote victory and open the way for Rossi to be declared the winner or a new election held. The margin was the smallest of any governor's contest in U.S. history.
"Both sides deserve a full and complete analysis," Bridges said in allowing the trial to go forward with the Democrats presenting their side.
In arguing for a dismissal, Democratic attorney Kevin Hamilton said the GOP had "failed to introduce anything resembling clear and convincing evidence" that the election was invalid.
GOP attorney Harry Korrell argued that there was "overwhelming evidence of error and neglect."
Whatever the outcome, the case is all but certain to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The GOP focused its challenge on the Democratic stronghold of King County, the state's largest, where election officials have acknowledged errors in tracking and counting ballots.
Republican attorneys said Friday they had identified 2,820 invalid votes that were counted, mostly in King County: 789 felon, dead and double voters, 1,156 votes in excess of voters credited at the polls, and 875 votes in excess of voters credited with absentee voting.
Democrats countered by calling auditors from across the state to testify about similar election errors. Officials from eight counties that voted for Rossi and one that was evenly split all testified about mistakes they'd made during the 2004 election. Altogether, they acknowledged counting 959 questionable votes.
Democratic attorney Hamilton said the testimony showed "there is no such thing as a perfect election ... There are always lots of little mistakes. That doesn't invalidate an election."
Republicans said the election errors presented Friday strengthen their arguments.
"They're certainly making our case that the problems in this election were so serious that outside of God, there's probably no one else who knows who got more legal votes," GOP attorney Mark Braden said.