More than a month after the election, Republican John Ensign conceded a "double overtime" loss by less than one-tenth of 1 percent in his U.S. Senate race against incumbent Democrat Harry Reid.
"The voters of Nevada can feel confident that their voices have been heard and their votes have been counted accurately," Reid said after a long-awaited call from Ensign late Wednesday.
Senate Democrats elected Reid minority whip last week as Ensign demanded the statewide recount of all 415,000 ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election.
Reid's re-election to a third term was sealed late Wednesday when it became clear that a hand count of 96,000 ballots in Washoe County would not overturn the 401-vote margin the Nevada Supreme Court certified two weeks ago.
Ensign, a two-term congressman, appeared at his campaign headquarters in Las Vegas and said the loss was difficult, particularly because of the close vote. He compared it to a game "when you give everything you can and lose in double overtime."
The original count after Election Day showed Reid defeating Ensign by 459 votes. But about 6,000 of ballots in Washoe County were miscut, with skewed margins that prevented them from being counted accurately by machine.
Over the next nine days, county officials hand-counted those 6,000 ballots and Reid's margin of victory dropped to 401 votes.
The latest hand count involved all ballots in the county. Both candidates picked up hundreds of votes that had not been counted originally, Ensign said.
"They'd open up boxes and find ballots uncounted," Ensign said.
Nevertheless, Ensign said he expected the recount to narrow the 401-vote margin by only 20 to 60 votes.
Ensign's campaign footed the $59,000 bill for the recount.
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