Hand recount will finally settle Pierce County Council race

After months of campaigning and nearly a month after Election Day, a hand recount next week will decide the race between Derek Young and Stan Flemming for Pierce County Council.

Young finished 93 votes ahead of Flemming, according to final results Tuesday from the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

The margin falls within the range for a mandatory manual recount. It will be the only mandatory recount in Pierce County this election season. A close race for the 28th Legislative District was resolved without need for a recount.

The county’s Canvassing Board on Tuesday certified the Nov. 4 election and ordered the recount in the Young-Flemming contest.

The recount will take place Monday through Thursday. The Canvassing Board will meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday to certify the recount.

The recount will cost from $40,000 to $50,000, which the county must pay, said county Auditor Julie Anderson.

The Auditor’s Office will hire 75 to 85 extra temporary workers for the job. In addition, 10 full-time regular employees will help.

The painstaking process involves identifying, sorting, counting and verifying the number ballots by precinct. The number of votes for each candidate will be hand-counted and verified by precinct.

Vote totals and results can change in a recount. Optical scan tabulation equipment used for the election can miscount mismarked ballots. Those errors are sometimes not caught by checks and double-checks during the election, according to the Auditor’s Office.

But Anderson said she would be “exceedingly surprised” if the election outcome was reversed.

The recount will take place at the Pierce County Election Center, 2501 S. 35th St., Suite C., Tacoma. Members of the public and representatives from the two campaigns are welcome to observe.

For the election, 49.96 percent of active registered voters in Pierce County cast ballots, below the 52 percent turnout predicted by the Auditor’s Office.

By law, a hand recount is mandatory for a nonstatewide race when the difference is:

The margin of difference between Young and Flemming was .00224. That’s out of a combined 41,523 ballots for the two candidates.

Young, a Democrat, never relinquished his slight lead over Flemming, the incumbent and a Republican, since the first returns on election night.

Young and Flemming are vying for a four-year seat on the council, representing the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas and portions of Tacoma. The position pays $107,602 a year.

Young, 38, who runs his own graphic design business, was on the Gig Harbor City Council for 16 years.

Flemming, 61, is a former state legislator and was a University Place city councilman for 14 years, serving as the city’s first mayor.

Not all tight races in the county will require recounts.

In Pierce County’s 28th Legislative District, a close state House race was ultimately decided in favor of Democrat Christine Kilduff of University Place. In the final results, Kilduff defeated Paul Wagemann, a Lakewood Republican, by 269 votes, or less than 1 percentage point.

Kilduff’s lead was wide enough to avoid a mandatory recount under state law.

Kilduff said Tuesday that she is “very excited for this opportunity to serve.” The lawyer and president of the University Place School Board said she wants to focus foremost on education and transportation issues in the Legislature.

Wagemann said Tuesday that he will continue to serve the remainder of his term on the Clover Park School Board, which runs through the end of 2015.

“The bottom line is I know I worked hard and I thought I ran a great campaign,” Wagemann said.

Staff writer Melissa Santos contributed to this report.