Does your vote really count?

Can one person really make a difference in an election?

A legislative race in Montana provides the latest evidence that one or two votes can make all the difference.

A two-day recount of a state House of Representatives race in Lake County, Mont., ended this evening in a tie, leaving open the question of whether the Republicans control the House or whether the GOP shares power with Democrats.

According to an Associated Press report, both Rick Jore, the Constitution Party candidate, and Democrat Jeanne Windham garndered 1,559 votes. The initial count, certified in the statewide canvass last week, had Jore winning 1,559 votes to 1,557, and a tentative recount tally yesterday had Jore with just a one-vote margin of victory.

The result of the race is being watched closely because it will determine control of the state House.

If Jore ultimately wins, Republicans would control the body with a 50-49 advantage over Democrats. If Windham wins, the two parties each would have 50 members and share power in the 2005 Legislature. The Montana state Senate will be controlled by Democrats, 27 to 23. Gov.-elect Brian Schweitzer is a Democrat.

AP reported Windham, who contends five ballots were illegally counted for Jore, obtained a court order that prohibits Secretary of State Bob Brown from certifying results of the recount and bars Gov. Judy Martz from appointing someone to the seat.

The Democrat claims five ballots had markings for both Jore and the Republican candidate, Jack Cross, who finished a distant third.

Meanwhile in Washington state, voters elected a new governor by a similarly razor-thin margin. Washington’s secretary of state today certified the results, which put Republican Dino Rossi in the governor’s mansion over Democrat Christine Gregoire. A recount gave Rossi a 42-vote victory out of millions cast.

Current Gov. Gary Locke said today a hand recount should be done of the entire state. An additional recount would have to be paid for by the Democratic Party.

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