CHEYENNE - The voting is not over for some residents in Lincoln County in western Wyoming after the State Canvassing Board on Wednesday ordered a special election in one precinct of state House District 22 because of improper votes cast in the general election.
The unofficial tally from last week's election had Wilson Democrat Jim Roscoe beating Pinedale Republican Charles Stough by just four votes for the state House seat.
But 11 Lincoln County residents in another House district mistakenly cast ballots in the race.
The canvassing board, made up of four statewide elected officials, voted 3-1 to hold a revote in just the one Alpine-area precinct where the improper votes were cast.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal, State Treasurer Joe Meyer and State Auditor Rita Meyer voted for the one-precinct special election, despite Attorney General Bruce Salzburg's opinion that state law didn't give the canvassing board the authority to order a special election for just a part of a district.
Secretary of State Max Maxfield, the canvassing board chairman, voted against the one-precinct vote, saying he favored a full district revote.
The outcome of the special election in the Alpine precinct will have no bearing on power in the state Legislature, where Republicans hold safe majorities in both chambers.
Roscoe, who attended the board meeting with attorneys who argued for the one-precinct revote, said he believed that it was the fairest solution. He said he would accept the results of the special election.
"It was interesting to see these guys really struggle with a question that was going to come their way sooner or later with these complicated districts," Roscoe said.
Stough said he believed the special election would result in a clear winner, though there seemed to be legal questions about whether the revote should be for the entire district or just one precinct.
"Personally, I've looked at it from many different directions, and I can't see a definite advantage to one decision over the other," Stough said.
In the Nov. 4 general election, Roscoe beat Stough in Lincoln County 368-323. Across the entire district, Roscoe received 2,891 votes to Stough's 2,887. Incumbent Rep. Monte Olsen, R-Daniel, did not seek re-election.
The board wrestled over the decision after hearing that a new election in all three counties would be costly and likely would mean that more than 1,000 people who voted absentee - including some on military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan - may not be able to vote in the new election because of the time constraints.
Joe Meyer said it made no sense to force a special election in all three counties when voters in Lincoln County accounted for only 11 percent of the total District 22 vote. He also noted that current state election laws were written in 1975 - before the state had legislative districts consisting of multiple counties.
Freudenthal said he's surprised there aren't more of these type of problems, given the confusing district maps.
Saying county lines shouldn't be a factor, Maxfield said he believed that it was unfair to allow just one of the 11 precincts in the district to hold a revote even though more absentee voters would be disenfranchised under a districtwide special election.
The canvassing board certified all other results from the general election.