• Kelly O

Last night, the SECB offered some Four Loko powered math related to the close race between former court of appeals judge Charlie Wiggins and controversial State Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders.

The results of the SECB's math? Inconclusive as to Wiggins' chances, but very conclusive as to the potency of Watermelon Four Loco.

I'll take another stab at Slog mathematics a little later in this post, but first the view from Wiggins' 40th-floor suite at the Seattle Westin, which myself and a number of other SECB members stumbled into after Patty Murray had finished declaring not-quite-yet-victory in a ballroom many floors below.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Wiggins told me, leaning against a wall, skull-and-crossbone suspenders holding up his slacks, a view of the Viaduct and SoDo out the windows to his left. The numbers supporting his cautious optimism: Sanders 51.27 percent, Wiggins 48.73 percent, with 28,936 votes separating them and hundreds of thousands of ballots left to tallied in King County.

"I'd love to be ahead at this point," Wiggins continued. "But all the returns aren't in yet."

He added: "I think that the later ballots have been more affected by your article and the Seattle Times article." Once those later ballots are all counted, he said, "I think I may win."

Whatever the outcome, the closeness of the race, Wiggins said, "is a rejection of some of the method of decision making of Justice Sanders, which is to impose a view on the law that is extreme and doesn't comport with legislative intent." Even if he doesn't win, Wiggins continued, the narrow margin between himself and a 15-year state supreme court incumbent is validation of his campaign message that "Justice Sanders has issues with respect to impartiality."

Now, let's do the numbers.

As noted above, Wiggins is currently 28,936 votes behind Sanders.

The Secretary of State says that 536,225 ballots have been received but not yet counted statewide, with the largest pools of uncounted ballots residing in King County (where the Secretary of State says there are 137,358 uncounted ballots on hand) and in Spokane County (where the Secretary of State says there are 100,000 uncounted ballots on hand).

If we assume the Secretary of State's numbers are correct—and keep in mind, the Secretary of State is talking only about uncounted ballots on hand as of last night, not ballots received today or still coming in (Patty Murray's campaign, for example, puts the number of not-yet-on-hand or just-arrived King County ballots at 350,000 and reports suggest that's a good estimate)—but if we use, for now, the Secretary of State's on hand numbers, and we assume that on hand uncounted votes in King and Spokane counties will break the same way as already-counted votes in those counties, then:

Spokane County will give Sanders 56,140 more votes and Wiggins 43,860 more votes, for a net Sanders gain of 12,280 votes.

Meanwhile, King County will give Wiggins 77,195 more votes and Sanders 60,163 more votes, for a net Wiggins gain of 17,032 votes.

Subtract Sanders' projected net gain in Spokane County from Wiggins' projected net gain in King County and you have an overall net gain of 4,752 votes for Wiggins—not enough to erase Sanders' lead. (And that's not even factoring in what happens with remaining ballots in other counties, which, based on last night's results, are more likely to break for Sanders.)


If we instead use estimates for the total uncounted King County ballots that remain out there in the world—including on hand but uncounted ballots, just arrived ballots, and yet to arrive ballots, which gets you to about 350,000 ballots still to count—well, in that case, Wiggins gets 196,700 more votes in King County while Sanders gets 153,300 more votes, for a net Wiggins gain of 43,400 votes in King County. Subtract the earlier projection of Sanders' net gain in Spokane County from that figure, and you get an overall net gain for Wiggins of 31,120 votes.

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And that's enough—though just barely enough—to put Wiggins in the lead (and leave a small cushion for dealing with late returns from other smaller, Sanders-leaning counties). If this scenario for a very narrow Wiggins win ends up occurring (and I'm not saying the chances of it occurring are huge, just that it's mathematically possible at this point), then the recount politicos have been chattering about would be in a very different Washington State race than most were expecting.

UPDATE: Some wording has been corrected to reflect an earlier confusion on my part about on hand vs. other ballots. Thanks to D.B. for pointing out the error.