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Recount Needed to Certify Victory for Wash. St. Abortion Rights Initiative

November 21, 1991

SEATTLE (AP) _ A recount next month will be required to decide whether voters have adopted the Roe vs. Wade ruling as Washington state law to guarantee women abortion rights.

About 200,000 absentee, questioned and challenged ballots turned the tide for the abortion-rights initiative, which trailed by about 6,000 in the initial vote count after the polls closed Nov. 5. The initiative won by about one-fourth of 1 percent, according to results certified by counties Wednesday.

The count of 756,554 to 752,240 remains unofficial, however, until it is certified by the state elections office, elections director Gary McIntosh said.

McIntosh said his office probably will certify results Dec. 5, and a recount, mandatory in any election decided by less than one-half of 1 percent of the total vote, probably will be completed about a week later.

″We’re very pleased that it’s finally nearing the end,″ said Esther Herst, state executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

She admitted, however, that the outcome in what had been long viewed as a stronghold of abortion rights was ″closer than we would have liked.″

The state had an unbroken string of strong votes in favor of abortion rights, starting with approval in 1970 of what was then one of the nation’s most liberal statutes.

McIntosh said he doubted a recount would change the results by more than a few hundred votes.

Assuming the computerized recount does not overturn the initiative’s apparent victory, abortion opponents could pay a nickel a ballot for a second count by hand.

Kenneth D. VanDerhoef, executive director of Human Life of Washington, said that abortion opponents would decide whether to seek a second recount, most likely limited to a few heavily populated counties, after the state-mandated recount is completed.

Initiative 120 essentially would adopt the 18-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade as state law, guaranteeing women the right to have abortions through about the sixth month of pregnancy.

It would replace the 1970 state law that allowed abortions through four months of pregnancy.

The measure also would eliminate 90-day residency and spousal and parental consent requirements contained in the earlier law, which was superseded by Roe vs. Wade but would take effect again if the new conservative majority on the high court overturns that decision.

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