WENATCHEE, Wash. -- A trial to determine whether the results of Washington state's gubernatorial election last fall should be thrown out opened yesterday with the Republicans alleging that the Democrats ''stole" the contest for Christine Gregoire, who won by 129 votes out of 2.9 million cast.
The GOP wants Dino Rossi declared the winner or another election held.
''This is a case of election fraud," GOP lawyer Dale Foreman said in his opening statement in the trial, which is being heard by a Superior Court judge without a jury. ''This election was stolen from the legal voters of this state by a bizarre combination of illegal voters and bungling bureaucrats."
Foreman surprised the court with a new contention: that the Democrats rigged the election by stuffing ballot boxes.
The findings in Seattle's heavily Democratic King County show ''partisan bias, and not random error," Foreman said. ''If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck."
Up to now, the Republicans have largely alleged bungling rather than outright fraud on the part of election officials.
Foreman also said the GOP will prove that when all the illegal votes are subtracted from both candidates, Rossi won the election.
Democratic lawyer Kevin Hamilton countered by arguing that the Republicans lack the ''serious proof" they need to make their case and justify the removal of the governor. He showed the judge a PowerPoint presentation titled: ''Evidence we won't see."
Every election has mistakes, Hamilton said, and the 2004 Washington governor's contest was no exception, but ''imperfection is not enough to overturn an election."
He also said the Republicans' allegations of fraud are belated and demonstrate ''desperation" on their part.
Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges said that later in the day he would consider a request from the Democrats to exclude evidence relating to allegations not previously raised, such as fraud.
Rossi, a former state senator and commercial real estate agent, won the first count by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42 votes. But during a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots, the Democratic stronghold of Seattle made Gregoire the winner by 129 votes. Gregoire was inaugurated in January, amid protests from Rossi supporters.