A judge refused Thursday to speed up the Republican challenge to the bitterly disputed Washington governor’s election, handing a small victory to Democrats.
Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges ruled that the case would go forward, but not on the expedited schedule proposed by Republicans.
“The old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied has a corollary: Justice hurried is justice denied,” Bridges said.
But in a plus for the GOP, the judge also denied a request by Democrats to delay “discovery” — the gathering of evidence — until the court considers the underlying constitutional issues in the dispute.
The hearing came eight days after Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire was sworn into an office that she had at first apparently lost to Republican Dino Rossi. A hand recount found she had won by 129 votes, and the Republicans are challenging the result.
Motions to dismiss Feb. 4
Bridges will hear motions by the Democrats and county officials to dismiss the case Feb. 4.
The heart of the Republicans’ challenge is that mistakes during the vote-counting forever obscured the true results of the November election, and the only just remedy is another statewide vote.
Thursday’s hearing was held at the county auditorium instead of the courthouse to accommodate the large crowd.
Neither Rossi nor Gregoire attended. Gregoire remained in Olympia, working to establish her authority as governor. Rossi traveled to Washington, D.C., for President Bush’s inauguration.
No matter what Bridges eventually rules, the case will likely be appealed.
The Republicans want to question election officials under oath and investigate voter records. Bridges heard from a number of attorneys for different counties that the Republicans’ requests were too burdensome, especially for small counties that don’t have the resources to produce all the information requested.
After Nov. 2 it appeared that Rossi, a former state senator and real estate agent, had come from behind to beat Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, by 261 votes.
Dueling street signs
His margin shrank to 42 votes after a machine recount. Finally, the hand recount of 2.9 million ballots made Gregoire the 129-vote winner.
Outside the hearing, a small number of demonstrators gathered. Some carried “Rossi Revote” signs. Another had the message, “GOP Repent. God Hates Hypocrisy.”
Arlene Jones, 76, arrived early with two friends to get seats, hoping for a revote that would oust Gregoire.
“She should not be in that governor’s mansion right now until we have figured this out and that’s why we’re here, to figure this out,” she said.