Hotter pessimistic about odds of winning

Uncounted votes come mainly from Dem-leaning Durango

The winner of the District 2 county commissioner seat has yet to be determined after Tuesday’s election results left a mere 78 votes between Democrat Gwen Lachelt and Republican incumbent Kellie Hotter. But Hotter, who trailed Lachelt, is not optimistic.

Hotter thanked her supporters in a post on her Facebook page and said, “While we did not win the election we will continue the good fight. Throwing in the towel is not an option. The stakes are too high.”

Hotter, La Plata County commissioner since 2007, said in an interview with The Durango Herald that she’s not conceding the race. But she doesn’t expect to win after the results of more than 700 provisional ballots come in because a high percentage of those ballots are from city voters, who traditionally vote more Democratic.

Lachelt agreed with Hotter’s assessment.

“I think the trend is definitely in my favor, and historically, provisional ballots go in favor of the person in the lead,” Lachelt said. “But the ballots will be counted on (Nov.) 14, so we will know the outcome of the race on the 14th.”

Most of the 723 provisional ballots come from inside city limits, which is standard for an election, said La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker.

Precinct 30, which represents Fort Lewis College, has the most provisional ballots with 57.

Provisional ballots are those held until the clerk’s office can determine voter eligibility. If voters went to the wrong precinct or didn’t have the correct identification when they went to the polls, they would have to vote provisionally, Parker said.

“It’s a way to ensure they didn’t vote more than once,” she said. “It’s almost like a fail-safe method of voting to make sure we don’t disenfranchise anybody. That way everybody gets an opportunity to cast a vote, but on the day of the election they didn’t vote the regular way.”

The clerk’s office sent out letters to every voter who had an issue with their ballot and had to vote provisionally. Voters should get the letters today and have until Nov. 14 to get the issue resolved, such as show the correct form of identification.

Along with the provisional ballots, other ballots with signature discrepancies, identification issues or military ballots that have yet to arrive in the mail still need to be counted. Fewer than 60 of those ballots remain, and they will be tallied after an eight-day verification period, Parker said.

The results of the provisional ballots will be released Nov. 15. While the office can verify the ballots, it cannot begin counting them until Nov. 14 after 5 p.m., when all of state’s counties have verified the ballots, to ensure voters aren’t casting ballots in multiple counties.

Parker was planning on counting the ballots over the weekend and releasing the results early next week until the attorney for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office called Friday afternoon to stop the process so other counties with a larger amount of provisional ballots could catch up.

About half of the provisional ballots had been verified as of Friday afternoon, Parker said.

A recount will be triggered only if the difference between the number of votes cast for the two candidates is equal to or less than half a percent of the votes cast for the leading candidate.

As the numbers currently stand, the difference between votes in the District 2 commissioner race would need to be fewer than 70 for a recount to occur.

District 3 commissioner candidate Julie Westendorff had a lead of 244 votes over Republican Harry Baxstrom after Tuesday’s results. It appears Westendorff, a Democrat, has secured the seat, but a recall of the race could be triggered if the difference in votes between the two candidates is fewer than 69 after the remaining ballots are tallied.

Candidates can request a recount, but they are responsible for paying the costs, which Parker estimated would be about $10,000.

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