Few votes separate Colorado’s congressional race between U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and Adam Frisch, meaning whoever wins the heated election could still suffer through a recount.
Eyes across the country are watching the race, which could swing either way as counties continue to count straggling ballots.
If neither candidate gains a wide enough margin, election officials might not declare an official winner in the race for weeks, depending on how the process plays out. Not only would a slim margin of victory trigger an automatic recount but either candidate can also request a recount so long as they’re willing to pay for it.
The process could then extend into December.
Out-of-state and overseas ballots can still be counted so long as they arrive by Nov. 16 and ballots that require additional verification can be fixed until then, too. With so few votes separating Frisch and Boebert, those ballots could make a substantial difference in the race.
For example, Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico, said her office expects as many as 450 ballots to be added into the mix by mid-November. Most of those are coming from out-of-state but others are being sent to them from other counties that mistakenly received Garfield County ballots and others have signature discrepancies that can be fixed – “cured” is the technical term – until then.
After Nov. 16, each county must audit their results and “canvass” the election, which is a process in which bipartisan teams of election officials examine voter turnout, and determine how many ballots were rejected, cured and disqualified. The counties have until Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 to report their audit and canvassing reports to the state, respectively.
Secretary of State Jena Griswold wouldn’t order an automatic recount in the race until after Nov. 30 and she’d have until Dec. 5 to make the call, according to Annie Orloff, a spokeswoman for Griswold’s office.
And an automatic recount wouldn’t be triggered anyway unless the leading candidate wins by less than 0.5% of their total number of votes, about 800 votes at the current turnout rate.
Candidates also have until Dec. 6 to request their own recount, Orloff said.
Once a recount is ordered, a board of election officials must select and test voting machines used in the race, comparing a machine ballot count to a hand count, the law says. Assuming the comparison matches, the recount can move forward.
The entire recount process would likely take days at least but Orloff said a mandatory recount would have to be finished by Dec. 13 and a recount requested by one of the candidates would have to be finished by Dec. 15.
Once election officials are finished recounting the ballots the Secretary of State’s Office would publish the new results all at once, Orloff said.
So far neither candidate has said whether they’d request their own recount if one isn’t triggered automatically. After a winner is decided, however, only Frisch has said he would accept the results of the election. Boebert has repeatedly avoided saying whether she’d concede if she loses.
Either way, recounts are typically unlikely to change the results.
A report published this month from FairVote, a nonpartisan political nonprofit, showed that across the country there were 35 statewide recounts between 2000 and this September. To be clear, a recount in the Boebert/Frisch race would not be statewide, it would only be within the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
Of those statewide recounts, only three overturned the outcome of the race, Will Mantell, a spokesman for FairVote said. And in each case, the original margin of victory was less than 0.06%.
A good example in Colorado would be the recount requested by Tina Peters after she lost her June 28 Republican primary bid for Secretary of State. That process cost her more than $255,000, wasn’t finished until Aug. 4 and in the end, she and candidate Pam Anderson (who won the nomination but lost to Griswold) only gained 13 votes each. Third-place finisher Mike O’Donnell gained 11 votes in the recount.
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