As the number of ballots left to be counted dwindled late last week and early this, the prospect of Nikkita Oliver surpassing Cary Moon for second place seemed less and less likely. But one possibility that didn’t seem as far fetched was Oliver getting within .5 percent of Moon, triggering an automatic recount. After all, Oliver has been sitting just .7 percent behind Moon for a few days now. What’s another couple tenths of a percent?
However, a closer reading of the law shows that an automatic recount is just as much a long shot as Oliver winning outright. Per state election law, the .5 percent difference needed to trigger a recount does not refer to the percentage of the total votes cast; rather, it refers to the percentage of the votes cast for either of the two candidates in question.
Bottom line: It doesn’t matter that Moon has 17.63 percent of the vote and Oliver 16.92 (the figures that provide us the .7 percent difference). What does matter is that, of the 63,591 votes cast for either Moon or Oliver, 51.02 percent were cast for Moon and 48.98 percent for Oliver. That represents a 2 percent difference—a figure Oliver would have to get down to .5 percent to trigger the recount. To do so, she’d have to close the gap on Moon by about 1,000 votes. It’s unlikely that another 1,000 Seattle ballots will be counted at all.
Moon’s campaign pointed out the distinction to Seattle Weekly in response to a story published Tuesday Oliver’s path to a recount.
Here’s the pertinent Washington code:
If the official canvass of all of the returns for any office at any primary or election reveals that the difference in the number of votes cast for a candidate apparently qualified for the general election ballot or elected to any office, and the number of votes cast for the closest apparently defeated opponent is less than two thousand votes and also less than one-half of one percent of the total number of votes cast for both candidates, the county canvassing board shall conduct a recount of all votes cast on that position.
Oliver could request a recount even if she’s not within .5 percent; but her campaign would have to pay for it. Publicola reports the cost of the effort would exceed the $53,166 Oliver has in her campaign coffers.