Recount in treasurer vote

Write-in candidate for Archuleta County Treasurer, Kelly Evans, has requested a formal recount of Nov. 4 election ballots and submitted the required funds to the county clerk Monday to launch the effort.

“I gave a certified check for $2,000 to June (Archuleta County Clerk June Madrid) yesterday. At this point, we are so close that I can’t see not following through with this,” Evans said in a telephone interview.

Evans lost the treasurer’s race to Republican challenger Betty Diller by a 430 vote margin — Diller’s 2,725 votes to Evans’ 2,295 — although Evans said she thinks the margin is narrow enough that the presence of 1,280 suspect ballots may tip the scales to her favor.

“There are 1,280 votes, by June’s (county clerk June Madrid) count, that didn’t have a circle darkened for either candidate,” Evans said.

In addition to the 1,280 “no oval” ballots, Evans has questioned whether election judges lawfully disqualified 187 write-in votes when they noticed spelling problems on the ballots.

“I’d like to see us have some clarification (on the spelling issue), because in my initial conversations it seemed as if she (Madrid) was asking for a more stringent application of the statute,” Evans said.

According to Colorado Revised Statute 1-7-114, “Each write-in vote may include a reasonably correct spelling of a given name, an initial or nickname, or both a given name and an initial or nickname, and shall include the last name of the person for whom the vote is intended.”

Madrid has argued the last clause of the above statute mandates a correct spelling of the last name or the vote will be disqualified. Evans disagrees, and in addition to requesting the recount, Evans has asked the Colorado Secretary of State to clarify issues surrounding spelling requirements and what constitutes clear voter intent.

According to Madrid, the secretary of state’s office sets the rules for the recount, and although it is unclear how the spelling issue will be resolved, Evans may get the satisfaction she seeks, at least on the 1,280 ballots with unmarked ovals.

“ ... When ballots are reviewed for voter intent during a recount, it is not necessary for the dot to be filled in — the vote still gets counted,” wrote Christi Heppard of the Colorado Department of State in a letter to Evans.

Evans’ request for a recount follows in the wake of alleged aberrations in the clerk’s handling and counting of ballots Nov. 4.

According to Evans, about 1,000 absentee ballots had gone initially uncounted on election night, and Evans alleged that Madrid’s reporting during the evening appeared inaccurate compared to the actual number of absentee ballots cast.

Madrid explained numbers reported throughout the evening were not intended to represent a final or official tally, and Madrid argues that Evans’ supporters misinterpreted information, as such. Moreover, when alerted to the possibility of omitted or miscounted absentee ballots, Madrid said she tasked staff with hand counting absentee ballots to ensure the accuracy of the count.

Nevertheless, with allegations of miscounted votes, varying vote tallies, unclear explanations for aberrations in the ballot collection and counting process during election night, incomplete explanations for statistics provided by Madrid’s office and differences in statutory interpretation, Evans said her recount request is not just sour grapes, but within her rights as a candidate and is a legitimate and prudent course of action considering the circumstances.

“There are avenues for legitimate write-in contenders to go forward and make sure every vote was counted,” Evans said.

Evans demonstrated she intends to travel that avenue with the formal request and payment for a recount, and anticipates the process should be underway by month’s end.

In the meantime, Diller said she remains confident in the count, and is comfortable letting the recount process run its course.

“I appreciate the hard work June Madrid and her dedicated staff have put in during this election. I believe June and those working with her have done an admirable job and performed their duties in an appropriate manner. I also have confidence that June will continue to do so throughout the rest of the process,” Diller said.

james@pagosasun.com