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Bill Kennedy, left, and Jim Reno listen as Yellowstone County El

Yellowstone County Commissioners Bill Kennedy, left, and Jim Reno concentrate as Yellowstone County Election Administrator Brett Rutherford discusses results during a canvass on Friday morning.

Yellowstone County commissioners formally reviewed the Nov. 6 general election results on Friday with a vote canvass designating the results as official.

The process took a less than an hour, with Bret Rutherford, county election administrator, reviewing the overall results with the commissioners. The commissioners signed certificates for each candidate with the results of that race.

Commission Chairman John Ostlund teased newly re-elected Commissioner Bill Kennedy, a Democrat, about certifying his own race.

“I did the canvass,” Kennedy said.

Rutherford gave the commissioners an abstract of election results that showed the tally of votes for each district and precinct. The canvass process is a review to reconcile the ballots with poll books, which track each ballot issued to voters in every legislative district and precinct.

The canvass ensures that a voter didn’t vote twice and that spoiled ballots and provisional ballots are reconciled.  All of the ballots were reconciled and the results were verified, Rutherford said.

Earlier this week, Rutherford recounted ballots in Precinct 58A after realizing on Saturday that some of the absentee ballots had been double counted when they were accidentally run through the counting machine twice. The recount lowered the number of votes cast in that precinct but did not change the outcome of the race, in which incumbent Krayton Kerns, a Republican, beat challenger Cole Olson, a Democrat, in House District 58.

Kennedy asked to review the poll book for Precinct 44B, in Lockwood, because it had seven spoiled ballots, which was the most of the precincts.

A spoiled ballot is one in which a voter at the polls made a mistake and asked for another ballot. The poll book reflects which numbered ballot was spoiled and the new ballot given to the voter.

The county’s official results showed that 69,923 voters of 95,589 registered voters cast ballots, for a 74 percent turnout, Rutherford said. The county’s turnout was one of the highest in the state, which had an overall turnout of about 72 percent.

The county will forward its official results to the secretary of state, which does a statewide canvass.

While the county’s canvass has been completed, the election may not be over because of an expected statewide recount in Montana’s schools superintendent race. Republican challenger Sandy Welch came up 2,264 votes short of beating incumbent Democrat Denise Juneau for superintendent of public instruction.

Welch has five days from when the state completes its canvass to request a recount. The state’s canvass is scheduled for Nov. 27.

Juneau’s advantage based on unofficial results – 0.48 percent – is within the margin Welch needs to request a recount. State law requires Welch to post a bond to cover the costs of a recount because the difference is greater than 0.25 percent.

A statewide recount of all 56 counties would cost about $114,798, or about 24.5 cents a ballot, the secretary of state’s office said on Thursday. More than 468,000 ballots were cast statewide.

Whether Welch wins or loses a recount, the bond would not be refunded under state law, Jorge Quintana, chief counsel for the secretary of state, said Friday. A bond is required if the threshold is between .25 percent and .50 percent.

If the race threshold is less than .25 percent, the state and county would pay for the costs of recount, Quintana said. A judge, however, could order that a winning candidate be reimbursed in a recount if it is a court-ordered recount, he said.

A recount in Yellowstone County would cost about $20,500, Rutherford said. The cost includes wages for commissioners and staff, supplies, security and rent for space at MetraPark, where the recount would be held, he said.

Rutherford initially estimated that a hand count of the ballots would take five days with the three commissioners, who constitute the recount board, and 15 judges working on the task.

The commissioners, however, suggested Rutherford hire more judges to cut the time it would take to a day or two.



Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.