OLYMPIA, Wash. – Ballots are still being counted to determine who will be Washington state's next governor, but if residents are getting antsy, they're not showing it.
"We're civilized enough out here. We have faith in our democracy," said Jean Wright, 44, a construction inspector here in the state capital. "To have every vote counted, that's most important to me."
Still, two weeks after the election, Wright confided she's "dying to find out."
As of Tuesday night, Republican real estate agent Dino Rossi (search) led by just 19 votes out of 2.8 million cast. Rossi had 1,367,365 votes to Democratic Attorney General Christine Gregoire's (search) 1,367,346.
Across the state, about 6,000 votes remained to be counted. Of the four counties with the most votes outstanding, two favor Rossi and two Gregoire.
Democrats scored a victory on Tuesday when a judge rejected the state Republican Party's attempt to stop King County from counting 929 provisional ballots. Paul Berendt, who heads the Democratic State Party, was so overcome by the good news that he wept openly.
"We were just trying to get people their right to vote," he said. "It meant a lot to me."
Also on Tuesday, elections officials in Grays Harbor County started recounting all 28,000 ballots after discovering a problem in the computer reporting system. And King County announced at the last minute that it had 10,000 more uncounted ballots than previously estimated.
Tension between the parties has run high, but even their leaders' bickering has conveyed a sense of superiority to other, messier election dramas.
"We live in King County, not Broward County (search) (Florida)," Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said. "Let's count every vote."
While protests broke out in Florida after the 2000 presidential election, no mobs have stormed the county canvassing centers in Washington — not even slightly ticked-off groups.
"Washington voters have come to expect to wait for returns," said Bobbie Egan, elections spokeswoman for King County, the state's largest. "Counting absentee ballots just takes a long time."
Glacially slow vote-counting goes with the territory in Washington politics.
In most states, mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day. Washington and Alaska, however, require only that ballots be postmarked by Election Day. With an estimated 60 percent of Washingtonians voting by mail, close races can drag on for weeks as absentee ballots trickle in to county offices.
The 2000 U.S. Senate race took several weeks of counting and recounting before Democrat Maria Cantwell was declared the winner over Republican incumbent Slade Gorton.
Wednesday is the deadline to finish counting unless, of course, there are recounts.
Under state law, a recount must be held if the final margin of victory is fewer than 2,000 votes. Six statewide vote recounts have been conducted since 1968, though none changed the outcome.
Gregoire was heavily favored going into the race. If Rossi continues getting votes, he could pull off an upset upset and become Washington's first Republican governor in 20 years.