ABC News' Brian Hartman reports from Seattle:
Massive voter turnout in the Democrats’ stronghold of Seattle has Sen. Patty Murray’s campaign feeling confident that another week of ballot counting will dramatically widen her slim lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi.
About seven in 10 registered voters cast ballots in King County, home to nearly a third of the state’s voters, and so far they overwhelmingly have supported Murray. Another 145,000 ballots arrived today in that one county.
As all counties across the state reported vote totals tonight, Murray expanded her lead to 24,834 votes from 14,005 votes this morning.
“We expect Sen. Murray to win this election in the next few days by a comfortable margin,” state Democratic Party chief Dwight Pelz told reporters on a conference call today.
“I don't see how [Rossi] comes back now,” another Democratic official told ABC News. “On a day he needed to close the gap, we increased our lead.”
The foundation of the Murray team’s confidence lies in 300,000-or-so ballots they say remain uncounted in deep-blue Seattle.
But the Rossi campaign said its candidate, too, benefited from a huge turnout in the more Republican areas of the state. And the campaign insisted far more uncounted votes remain in the Republican-leaning areas that make up most of the state outside Seattle.
“The bottom line is there's still nearly 600,000 ballots left to count,” Rossi campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Morris told ABC News.
King County, she said, has only 171,000 outstanding votes –- not the 300,000 claimed by Murray’s campaign.
Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political science professor who has been studying the election returns, said Rossi is dreaming an impossible dream.
“You can go ahead and call it after today's results,” Barreto said. “We projected last night that Murray would win, no doubt about it. And now today, the new data all points to Murray winning. Twenty counties have reported new vote totals, and Murray is ahead of her numbers of last night in 17 of 20 counties.”
One thing is certain: The ballots and tallies will keep rolling in for days and none will be watched more closely than those in King County (You too can watch King County votes being counted live online).
“We expect to add 65,000 more tomorrow and 65,000 again on Friday,” county Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement released late today. "By the end of the week, we should have counted about 72 percent of the ballots returned in this election."
That means it will be at least next week before a final vote count is tabulated on the remaining votes in King County and in the rest of the counties in Washington state.
If this race narrows, it’s worth keeping in mind the rules for recounts, a fight that both sides are prepared to engage if needed. In Washington, a mandatory machine recount will be triggered if the margin is less than one half of 1 percent and also fewer than 2,000 votes. A mandatory hand recount is triggered if the margin is less than one quarter of one percent and fewer than 1,000 votes.
In addition, either candidate can purchase a machine recount of any district for 15 cents a vote. It's a quarter a vote for a hand recount.