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Primary results certified

Machine recount begins in the King County Sheriff's race

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

County auditors certified the Sept. 20 primary election Friday and only the King County Sheriff's race triggered a recount.

The final numbers in the Bonney Lake mayor's race showed City Councilman Neil Johnson with 1,007 votes, 41.91 percent, and City Councilman Jim Rackley with 592 votes or 24.64 percent.

The two council members will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.

A tight race for the Enumclaw School District Director No. 5 appeared to be headed for a recount, but Kathleen Michael edged out Andy Willner by more than one-half percent.

Michael received 1087 votes, 22.58 percent and Willner 1056, 21.94 percent.

In the Buckley mayor's race incumbent John Blanusa will face City Councilwoman Pat Johnson.

Johnson edged out Blanusa in the primary picking up 370 votes, 39.32 percent. Blanusa received 310 votes, 32.94 percent.

Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy said the new system enacted by the Legislature after the problems in the 2004 governor's race presented some problems for election workers.

"It was a tremendous amount more work," McCarthy said. "It's mind-numbing detail work. Probably twice as much, but we wanted as pristine an election as possible. The public and the media were expecting that."

McCarthy noted there was about 27 percent turn out in the primary.

"It's slightly lower than usual," McCarthy said. "But we reconciled very good."

King County Elections' spokesman Bobbie Egan said the election went very well.

"We put a number of changes in place to address the issues that came out of the governor's race," Egan said. "Particularly in respect to absentee ballots, poll ballots and poll worker training. We had excellent feedback from out poll workers."

Egan said a countywide mailing helped educate voters about changes such as bringing identification to the polling place and signing absentee envelopes.

"We have about 800 who still forgot to sign the envelope," Egan said.

The sheriff's race requires a recount between Greg Schmidt, who received 45,443 votes, 16.95 percent and Jim Fuda, 45,375 votes, 16.92 percent.

Sue Rahr led the sheriff's race, picking up 176,682 votes, 65.90 percent.

Schmidt and Fuda agreed to a simplified machine recount of 10 randomly selected precincts.

According to the elections division the two agreed to enact a rarely used statute allowing the randomly selected machine recount.

Both McCarthy and Egan reported a recount was an issue of serious concern to all auditors in the state because of the short time to the general election.

"This is a train wreck waiting to happen," Egan said. "Washington state has one of the latest primaries in the nation. With a recount it is less than five weeks."

A manual recount, which is triggered if the race is within a quarter percent, would take about five days according to Egan. General election ballots could not be built or the official pamphlet sent to printers until after the recount.

"It's really a problem," McCarthy said. "That's why the auditors have been pushing the legislators to move the primary. We hope to be successful in the next primary session. It can be very difficult to get the ballots to the military. Many primaries around the nation are in the spring. We are pushing for three week or about the end of August."

The recount in the sheriff's race is expected to be completed by Tuesday.

Although there were few partisan races in the counties, the party leaders have come out in strong support of the primary system used in the state where a voter must chose a party in partisan races.

"The issue is simple," state Republican Chairman Chris Vance said. "We can't allow Republicans to choose Democrats and Democrats to help choose Republican candidates. We've had a couple of these primaries now and there hasn't been a huge impact."

Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said he believes better candidates are chosen with the system.

"We've had nothing but positive feedback," Berendt said. "I think people are beginning to understand. They pay more attention when they have to choose. It's not just a beauty contest."

Complete primary election results are available on the Web for Pierce County at www.piercecountywa.org and for King County at www.metrokc.gov/elections/2005sep/results.htm

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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