Furse has slim nine-vote edge

DA race won’t be settled until close to 60 ballots verified

Russell Wasley, right, is all smiles as he learns of the Dolores County results for the 22nd Judicial District DA’s race, which he earned more votes. Moments later he discovered he trailed in Montezuma County by 43 votes and currently is behind by nine votes. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Russell Wasley, right, is all smiles as he learns of the Dolores County results for the 22nd Judicial District DA’s race, which he earned more votes. Moments later he discovered he trailed in Montezuma County by 43 votes and currently is behind by nine votes.

By Kimberly Benedict

Journal Staff Writer

As they say, every vote counts.

With only a nine-vote difference between the candidates in the 22nd Judicial District attorney Republican primary, no winner was declared Tuesday night and all indicators point to a recount and a more than a week wait for official results.

After unofficial numbers were tabulated in the 22nd Judicial District, which encompasses Montezuma and Dolores counties, challenger Will Furse held a razor-thin lead over incumbent DA Russell Wasley. Out of 3,825 ballots cast in the two counties, Furse claimed 1,917 votes, 50.1 percent, and Wasley held 1,908 votes, 49.9 percent.

There are also a few ballots that need to be counted in the district.

Both candidates seemed stunned to receive the news Tuesday night.

Wasley commented on the rigors of the campaign and said that following a crazy election cycle a close result shouldn’t be such a shock.

“Everyone worked very hard and I guess it was just a very close race,” Wasley said, at Republcan headquarters on Main Street Tuesday night. “I guess this year nothing surprises me. But still...”

Furse struggled to find the right words to address the situation, settling on a few comments on the importance of voting.

“I almost don’t want to say a word until we have final results,” Furse said. “I had no doubt it would be close but to hear victory may be defined by only nine votes ... It should motivate people to go out and vote, because, obviously, your vote will make a difference.”

The results of the primary may trigger an automatic recount. Colorado election law mandates a recount if the margin of victory in the district is less than one half of one percent of the total votes cast. The current nine-vote difference is just 0.02 percent of the total vote.

However, in both Dolores and Montezuma counties there are some ballots that have yet to be counted in the race, and those ballots could move the election from recount territory to an official declaration of a winner.

“We had over 30 unsigned ballots that came in to us,” Tullis said. “Those voters still have a chance to come in to the clerk’s office and sign their ballots and have their ballots be counted.”

Colorado election law allows for an eight-day window after a mail-in ballot election during which voters who failed to sign for their ballots may rectify the error.

Voters are to be informed by mail they have time to sign their ballots, if they want their vote to be counted.

According to the Colorado Department of State’s Quick Reference Guide for primary mail ballot elections, “If a mail ballot envelope is not signed, a letter must be sent within two days, but no later than three days after the election, notifying the voter that he or she has nine calendar days after the election to go to the elections office to sign the envelope.”

Tullis said as voters return to sign ballots, those votes will be counted as the canvassing process is completed in the county.

In addition to unsigned ballots, Tullis said the county is also waiting on “UOCAVA ballots.” UOCAVA voters are military voters and county residents living overseas.

“I would say we have about 60 total ballots that could still be counted,” Tullis said. “That doesn’t mean they all will come back, but they could.”

In Dolores County, no ballots were returned unsigned, but the clerk’s office did hold back 25 ballots to join with military ballots that have yet to be returned. At least 25 ballots must be held in reserve in order to conduct a final count with voting machines. Two military ballots are still out, for a total of 27 votes that may still be counted in Dolores County.

All outstanding ballots must be returned to the county clerk offices by July 5. Canvassing and official abstracts are due July 9.

Once abstracts are delivered to the secretary of state’s office the determination will be made whether an automatic recount has been triggered. Should the secretary of state’s office order a recount, that decision will be made by July 16. Candidates may request a recount, to be conducted at their own expense, by July 17. Recounts must be completed by July 26.

An election-night party for Furse held at Mr. Happy’s Bakery had an awkward feel as supporters tried to wrap their minds around the narrow lead earned by their candidate that may vanish in the future.

“I anticipated it would be much closer than anyone thought but this is closer than what anyone wanted,” said Furse supporter Todd King. “Hopefully time will uphold the results we have now.”

The county breakdown had Furse with a 1,835 to 1,792 edge in Montezuma County and Wasley with a 116 to 82 vote lead in Dolores County.

Other Republican candidates said Tuesday’s results exemplified the nature of the race.

“I think it speaks to the quality of the campaign those two ran,” said Keenan Ertel, who was declared the winner in the District 2 race for Montezuma County commissioner. “They really knew how to get out there and get votes and I know both want it dearly and both have worked so hard.”

Dewayne Findley, Republican winner for the District 3 race for Montezuma County commissioner, said he is sure both DA candidates are “on pins and needles,” waiting for results.

“I will say this, win or lose, I think the voters usually get it right,” Findley said.

As for the candidates themselves, both believe final results will turn out in their favor and both are willing to fight in the next few days to be sure the official count is fair and everyone’s voice is heard.

“We are just going to have to wait and be sure the process is followed,” Furse said. “We want votes counted.”

Wasley said the waiting will be difficult, but a week is not much when compared to the multi-month campaign.

“We’ve been waiting for months,” he said. “I suppose we can wait a few more days.”

Official results in the race for the Republican candidate for district attorney are expected once all ballots are counted and a canvass is completed. The deadline to complete the canvass is July 9.

Currently, no candidate has filed paperwork to challenge the primary winner in the 2012 general election.

Reach Kimberly Benedict at kimberlyb@cortezjournal.com.

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Sharon King congratulates Will Furse on his nine-vote lead in the 22nd Judicial District DA’s race. The race could go either way once all the votes are counted.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Sharon King congratulates Will Furse on his nine-vote lead in the 22nd Judicial District DA’s race. The race could go either way once all the votes are counted.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$