Election 2017: Close counts inspires recounts

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Adams County Clerk Stan Martin can you tell you that every vote matters. (SOS photo)

Longtime election officials in Adams County can’t remember the last time a contest was so close it required a mandatory recount, so there’s more than just a little surprise that the county must recheck the outcome in five — yes, five– races.

And making the recounts even more unusual is each race is shared with at least one other county and two of those races are tied, said Adams County Clerk Stan Martin.  The recounts in Adams County begin today.

In all, 14 races statewide in the Nov. 7 coordinated election are subject to a mandatory recount and of those six were tied after local canvass boards certified results, underscoring the message Secretary of State Wayne Williams delivers when talking to Coloradans: Every vote counts. Williams was the El Paso County clerk and recorder when two school board races were decided by a single vote, and a municipal tax question failed because it was tied.

Recounts are underway.

Arapahoe County also has five races to recount and Weld County has four races. Alamosa, Garfield, Morgan, Routt, Sedgwick, and Teller counties also had recounts this year. Some of the recounts are finished, others are underway.

Among the tied races was a school board contest in Julesberg, where voters were to select three directors from six hopefuls. Tammy Aulston and Daniella Fowler were tied for the third slot at 225 votes each and they remained tied after the canvas board conducted the recount, Sedgwick County Clerk Chris Beckman said.

Under state law, if candidates are still tied the winner is determined by lot. So on Nov. 16 — more than a week after the election — Aulston and Fowler’s names were put into a bowl.  Aulston’s name was drawn, so she was elected.

“It was a little crazy we had to wait  that long, but they kept us informed about what was happening,” Aulston said.

She hollered “Hooray!” when her name was drawn and high-fived Jane Kipp, the school board member whose seat she is taking. Kipp was present at the drawing because she happens to be  Sedgwick County’s chief deputy clerk.

Arapahoe County election director Jennifer Morrell and Clerk and Recorder Matt Crane. (SOS photo)

In some races, only a few votes separate the top vote-getter with the next highest vote-getter. Under state law, a recount is mandatory when the difference between the votes for the winning candidate with the least votes and the losing candidate with the most votes is less than or equal to one-half of one 1 percent of the votes for the winning candidate with the least votes.  The mandatory recounts must be completed by Dec. 7.

One of the most closely followed races was for two at-large seats on the Aurora City Council, which spans Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. Eight candidates ran for the two slots. Allison Hiltz easily took the most votes. The difference between the second-place finisher, Dave Gruber with 13,552 votes, was close enough to third-place finisher, Tom Tobiassen with 13,305, votes that it triggered a recount.

Arapahoe County is overseeing that recount.

As for the Adams County ties, Joyce Downing and Danielle Henry, who are running for the Northglenn Council in Ward 2 in Adams and Weld counties, each has 642 votes.  And a Byers school question about reducing the number of board of education directors from seven to five is tied, with 258 voting  “yes” and 258  voting “no.” The district is in both Adams and Arapahoe counties.