Editorial: Auditor knows how to count

Island County Auditor’s office, headed by Auditor Suzanne Sinclair and Elections Officer Loann Gulick, has responded admirably to the closest gubernatorial election in this state’s history.

The outcome in Island County was never in doubt, as Republican Dino Rossi handily out-polled Democrat Christine Gregoire. But the two candidates were fighting for every single vote in the statewide recount, and many pairs of Republican and Democratic eyes were watching as each of the state’s 39 county auditor’s offices started recounting the vote.

The carefully conducted machine recount in Island County gave Rossi an additional four votes, no doubt a slight disappointment to the Democrats. But there were no complaints from officials who observed the procedure. In fact, Grethe Cammermeyer, chair of the Island County Democratic Party, commended the effort by the auditor’s staff. “I’ve been extremely impressed with the rigor that the county has had through this election,” she said.

Republicans present were just as supportive.

The elections staff put in long hours of hard work to first certify the initial vote on Nov. 2 with absentee ballots trickling in days after the actual election, and then by conducting the recount carefully and accurately.

Alas, their reward for a job well done could be even more work. With only 42 votes separating the candidates from the nearly 3 million cast, it’s likely the Democrats this week will demand another recount — this one by hand. This won’t affect Island County immediately, as only the most Democratic counties, like King and Whatcom, will likely be hand counted. But, if that changes the election’s outcome, then the whole state will have to recount to get the final, official, hand-counted decision.

It’s possible the Island County elections staff will end up counting by hand more than 39,000 ballots ­— a tedious process indeed, and one that could keep them counting until somewhere around Christmas. We hope that doesn’t happen. The Island County Auditor’s Office has already done its job of honestly and accurately reporting the vote of the people, thereby giving voters full confidence in our electoral process. They deserve to call it an election.

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