Seventy-five election workers Monday started the week-long process of recounting votes for Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell and her Republican challenger, Hans Zeiger, who led her by just 47 votes out of 49,791 in the first count.
One counter is sitting out this week. An election worker who gave money to Zeiger’s campaign won’t participate in the recount, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said Monday.
Anderson said she pulled the temporary employee, Janet Mullen, from the schedule after learning about her $750 in contributions to Zeiger.
Such contributions are legal. But “I have a higher duty to the public good,” Anderson said, “and that includes the perception of any conflict of interest.”
Anderson said she scoured campaign reports last week for other contributions and turned up nothing for the 11 full-time employees and 64 extra hires like Mullen who are sorting ballots and counting votes this week.
Mullen worked during this year’s primary and general elections.
Anderson said if Mullen had been a full-time employee, it would have been harder to change her duties. Pierce County has restrictions on campaign contributions by its employees, but Anderson said they are poorly written. The county ethics code bars donations of more than $100, but only if they go to county officials.
Anderson wants to tighten restrictions for her own agency to head off future incidents. She said she plans to make changes before the next general election, after conferring with the county prosecutor’s office.
A local resident inquired by e-mail to Anderson about the contributions, as well as campaign contributions by someone who lives at the same address as Mullen. It is her husband, Anderson said.
State law requires a hand recount in races separated by fewer than 150 votes and one-quarter of 1 percent .
Workers largely completed the first task of the process Monday: opening archived boxes of mail ballots and separating out the 25th District ballots.