Politics

Nov 9, 2012 7:55 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Welch seeks ballot recount in OPI race against Juneau

HELENA - Republican candidate Sandy Welch is requesting a recount in her campaign to unseat incumbent Denise Juneau (D) as the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction after a long ballot counting process in Yellowstone County.

Juneau is leading by 1,611 votes, a margin of just 0.34%, with the current tally showing Juneau with 232,233 votes (50.09%), and Welch 230,622 (49.75%).

Yellowstone County Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford tells us the folds in the absentee ballots slowed down the counting machines, forcing them to be stopped and then restarted frequently; instead of feeding 200 ballots per minute, the machines were only processing five to 10 ballots per minute.

A mechanic arrived at around 2 a.m on Thursday, and was able to repair the machines so more ballots could pass through.

Rutherford says they have counted all the first pages of the ballots, so all the candidate numbers on the Secretary of State's website are final numbers.

He says any changes to those results that may occur are because the first page of the ballot might have accidentally got sorted with page 2, and they haven't counted page 2 yet.

According to state law, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is below 0.5%. If the margin is below 0.25% the state will pay for the recount. If the margin is between 0.25 and 0.5% the candidate must pay for the recount.

There are still provisional ballots being counted, so it's unclear who will pay for the recount.

Welch's campaign manager Mitch Staley says Sandy is committed to making sure the process is accurate and every vote is counted.

Earlier Thursday, Denise Juneau posted this statement on her Facebook page:

"WE WON! Thank you so much for all of your positive thoughts, well wishes, and support. I have been privileged to serve the state of Montana as your State Superintendent for the last four years. Together, we accomplished some great things. And, I look forward to serving as Montana's top advocate for public education for the next four years."

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