David Postman from the Seattle Times has been covering this story:
February 10, 2008 10:27 AM
As votes were tallied yesterday by the state Republican Party, Sen. John McCain led in an early count, Huckabee led briefly later in the night and then at 11:30 p.m., state party chairman Luke Esser declared McCain the winner.
But there was a razor thin margin between McCain, with 25.5 percent of delegates, and Huckabee, with 23.7 percent, and there was still about 13 percent of precincts around the state that had yet to be counted.
February 10, 2008 1:56 PM
Republican Mike Huckabee's campaign is sending attorneys to Washington state to investigate what happened with the count of yesterday's Republican presidential caucus. Campaign Chairman Ed Rollins issued this statement:
“The Huckabee campaign is deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses. It is very unfortunate that the Washington State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, chose to call the race for John McCain after only 87 percent of the vote was counted. According to CNN, the difference between Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee is a mere 242 votes, out of more than 12,000 votes counted—with another 1500 or so votes, apparently, not counted. That is an outrage.February 10, 2008 3:12 PM
“In other words, more than one in eight Evergreen State Republicans have been disenfranchised by the actions of their own party. This was an error in judgment by Mr. Esser. It was Mr. Esser’s duty to oversee a fair vote-count process. Washington Republicans know, from bitter experience in the 2004 gubernatorial election, the terrible results that can come from bad ballot-counting.
“Frankly, I am disappointed in the way that Mr. Esser has handled this urgent matter. So I call upon Mr. Esser and his colleagues to cooperate fully with the Huckabee campaign—and all Republicans, everywhere, who care about honest and transparent vote-counting—to make sure that every vote is counted and that all Republicans in Washington have the chance to make their votes count. Attempts by our campaign to contact Mr. Esser have been unsuccessful. Our lawyers will be on the ground in Washington State soon, and we look forward to sitting down with Mr. Esser to evaluate this process, to see why the count took so long, and why the vote-counting was stopped prematurely.
“It would be a disservice to every voter in Washington State to not pursue a full accounting of all votes cast.
“This is not about Mike Huckabee. This is not about Senator John McCain. This is about the failings of the Washington State Republican Party. All Republicans should unite to demand an honest accounting of the votes, so that Republicans can have full confidence in the results, and full confidence in the eventual Republican nominee. As I said, we are prepared to go to court, and we are also prepared to take our case all the way to the Republican National Convention in September.
“Our cause is just. We must reemphasize the sacred American principle that all ballots be counted in a free, fair, and transparent manner.”
State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said the party will start counting again this afternoon. But he said he has no reason to think the outcome will be any different when ever vote is counted.
“I am confident it will hold up,” he said of his call last night that John McCain had won the Washington caucus. “I don't blame anybody for strongly supporting their guy and Governor Huckabee is a great guy. If they're mad at me, I'm sorry. But I would have done the exact same thing if Governor Huckabee had the same lead, and the same number of votes were outstanding.”
Esser said he declared McCain the winner after calculating what Huckabee would have to win in the remaining precincts in order to take the lead. And even with being generous with a forecast of Huckabee votes, and purposefully assuming McCain's support dropped significantly in the late counts, McCain still looked like the winner.
“There's no certainty in this mortal coil. But I am confident these numbers will hold up.”
Esser said he talked today with Joe Fuiten, the Bothell pastor who heads Huckabee's volunteer effort in the state. Esser said that Fuiten told him about complaints from specific precincts about votes were handled. Esser said the party will investigate those claims.
Esser said he was not lobbied last night from either McCain's or Huckabee's campaigns about whether or not to to declare a winner.
“Maybe it would have been safer if I hadn't said anything. But it was an exciting and historic day for the state and I thought if I was confident about what the outcome would be I should share that with the people who had gone out to their caucuses.”