BRINCAT COURT SPECTATORS
Elaine Thompson  /  AP
Police conduct a security check of the Chelan County auditorium as workers bring in documents before a Superior Court challenge to the 2004 governor's election on Monday in Wenatchee, Wash.
updated 5/24/2005 12:07:34 AM ET 2005-05-24T04:07:34

A trial to determine whether the results of Washington state’s gubernatorial election last fall should be thrown out opened Monday with Republicans charging Democrats “stole” the contest for Christine Gregoire, who won by 129 votes out of 2.9 million cast.

The GOP wants Dino Rossi declared the winner or a do-over election held.

“This is a case of election fraud,” GOP attorney Dale Foreman said in his opening statement in the trial, which is being heard by a Superior Court judge without a jury. “This election was stolen from the legal voters of this state by a bizarre combination of illegal voters and bungling bureaucrats.”

Dems: Republicans lack ‘serious proof’
Democratic attorney Kevin Hamilton argued Republicans lack the “serious proof” they need to make their case and justify the removal of the governor. He also said Republicans’ belated claim of fraud demonstrates “desperation” on their part.

“Imperfection is not enough to overturn an election,” Hamilton said. “It’s not enough to throw a lot of dust in the air and make allegations.”

Foreman surprised the court with a new claim: that the Democrats rigged the election by stuffing ballot boxes in Gregoire’s two strongest precincts and by “losing” votes in two of Rossi’s strongest precincts.

The findings in Seattle’s heavily Democratic King County show “partisan bias and not random error,” Foreman said. “If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”

Shifting strategy
Up to now, Republicans have largely complained of bungling rather than outright fraud on the part of election officials.

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges ruled that GOP lawyers could present evidence about possible fraudulent actions during the nine-day trial, though he said the court “does not believe there is a fraud causation element to this case.”

Republicans read a deposition from GOP Secretary of State Sam Reed, who described “very deep problems” in the King County elections division.

Later, Rossi campaign volunteer Dan Brady testified about 30 boxes of evidence he has organized on felons who allegedly voted in the election improperly.

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King County Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens was scheduled to testify Tuesday.

Both sides have vowed to appeal an adverse ruling by the judge to the state Supreme Court.

Count and recount
Rossi, a former state senator and commercial real estate agent, won the first count last year by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42 votes. But during a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots, the Democratic stronghold of Seattle made Gregoire, a former attorney general, the winner by 129 votes.

Gregoire was inaugurated in January amid protests from Rossi supporters.

Neither Gregoire nor Rossi planned to attend the trial.

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