As we mentioned in yesterday’s story on the impending recount in the Port Orchard mayor’s race, one need look no farther than the 5-vote difference between leader Tim Matthes and incumbent Lary Coppola to know that the campaign has literally created a rift in the town. Both candidates have said that, if elected, they’d offer an olive branch to their opponents’ supporters.
Kitsap County elections history shows the scales statistically tipped in favor of whoever is leading in the final count. One notable exception on the state level is the 2004 gubernatorial race between Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire. Recall that one? Rossi, who was ahead initially, lost the race after a manual recount and the dismissal in Chelan County Superior Court of a legal challenge to the election.
In Kitsap County, the recount flip-flopped results the opposite way. Gregoire was ahead by a slim margin in the original count. But Rossi pulled ahead in the machine recount. He remained ahead in the manual recount that followed. Kitsap auditor’s archives show Rossi beating Gregoire in Kitsap 49.33 percent to 48.14 percent.
A look at recounts can be a trip down memory lane. Who out there remembers the tortuous back story that led to the annexation of Bainbridge Island into the city of Winslow? Or that the vote in 1990 went to a manual recount. The “yeas” had it with a lead of 136 among 6,384 votes cast.
Here’s something else you might find interesting. The Kitsap County Auditor lists on its website write-in candidates for two races in this election, the city of Poulsbo Council position 3 race, in which Fred Springsteel registered as a write-in, and the city of Port Orchard mayor’s race, because of the recount.
According to Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore, the vast majority of write-in votes are not able to be counted either because the voter will check write-in but fail to name a candidate or because the person named is not an eligible candidate. About 25 percent are flat-out frivolous, Gilmore said, with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck garnering many votes over the years.
Of the 19 write-in votes cast in the Port Orchard race, 13 were “not qualified.” People who got one vote each included City Councilman Fred Chang and Rebeka Johnson, apparently referring to Rebekah Johnson, treasurer for People for a Better Port Orchard, an anti-Coppola committee. Rebekah is the daughter of Coreen Haydock Johnson Haydock-Johnson, executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. Other write-in candidates were Kevin Madden, Bryan McKinnon, James C. Price and Linda Webb.
Recounts put the Auditor’s office in the spotlight, because the public is allowed to observe every step of the process. Gilmore is just fine with that. In fact, she and her staff are happy to share the intricacies of state regulations that guide the elections process. Did you know, for example, that there’s a process for deciding which candidates will appear first on the ballot? Elections staff put slips of paper with all 26 letters of the alphabet in a container and draw them out, establishing a non-aphabetical order that applies to all races.
Both Matthes and Coppola said they would send representatives to observe the recount and be present at least for part of the process themselves. Gilmore said she’d be surprised if there weren’t observers.
“We’re pretty well used to observers coming in and looking over our shoulders, so I don’t see it being a big thing for staff,” Gilmore said.
The recount begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The final result will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kitsap County Administration Building, 619 Division Street in Port Orchard.