Montrose County’s tally in the statutorily mandated recount of the razor-thin congressional race between U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch, is complete, with the minor difference of each candidate losing one vote.
The recount was finished Tuesday afternoon, after people earlier inundated Clerk and Recorder Tressa Guynes with emails claiming the Secretary of State’s Nov. 30 order for a recount didn’t comply with state law — and a few disagreements with people who showed up as watchers for the process on Monday.
Most watchers conducted themselves appropriately, including a woman representing the Committee on (U.S.) House Administration, Guynes said. Watchers are allowed to observe the recount, but not to disrupt it. Guynes said some of the more local watchers kept asking questions and although she at first tried to respond, she said the questions persisted to the point of being a near-argument.
“You think that they’re wanting to educate themselves, so we’re interacting with them. Then it got to where it was just a big argument. They were trying to get us to stop the recount. I got probably 50 emails saying it was unlawful,” Guynes said.
Guynes shared several emails. Most of these appeared to be boilerplate letters stating that the Secretary of State’s order for a recount didn’t comply with Colorado law, and these went on to quote sections of election law.
“You swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and Laws of Colorado. Your duty is to the people and the law, not to blindly take orders from the Secretary of State or head of an NGO such as the Clerk’s Association,” many of the emails begin.
The emails also appear to argue that a rescan of ballots and a recount are not always the same thing and that Guynes can hand-count paper ballots and still be in compliance with the Secretary of State’s order.
Guynes said that on Monday, people were putting printed-out emails into her hand, claiming they were court orders.
“I said no. This is not a court order and we are abiding by the law in conducting this recount,” she said.
Their complaints as described appear similar to ones a handful of electors in other counties in the 3rd Congressional District made in an emergency petition to the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The petitions, filed by attorney Gary Fielder on behalf of electors in Mesa, Garfield, Alamosa, Eagle and Pueblo counties, ask the court to determine that Secretary of State Jena Griswold exceeded her rule-making authority and violated election law concerning how pre-recount testing of machines is to take place.
The petitioners argue that the logic and accuracy testing of voting devices she ordered to take place for the recount was not the correct method of pre-recount testing.
Instead, they said, the law requires a comparison of actual voter-verified paper against a voting machine’s tabulation, which would either validate the machine’s accuracy, or, when there are discrepancies, create the presumption for a recount by hand. Although a recount can be conducted in the same manner as the original election if the comparison between manually counted ballots and the machine’s tabulation is identical, that’s not the case when there are discrepancies, the petitioners argued.
All counties in CD3 except for San Juan County are rescanning original ballots and, with bipartisan teams of election judges, are re-adjudicating ones that the machines reject. San Juan County is conducting the recount by hand because that is how the original election was conducted there.
The petitioners’ filings say that although they do not want to needlessly delay the recount past the mandated finish date of Dec. 13, the action should be stayed until the state’s high court determines whether testing was conducted as required.
They also seek to halt Griswold from acting on any amended and resubmitted abstract of figures unless and until each canvass board member of each county can certify in writing that the proper prior-to-recount test was conducted, and by whom.
The petition asks for the counties that did not conduct the prior-to-recount test be ordered to ignore their recount results and conduct a new one that performs the testing first. Counties that conducted an unlawful recount, as alleged, should bear the costs of the second recount, the petitioners argue.
Guynes said that as of Wednesday, the Colorado Supreme Court had not directed her office to respond.
“The recount is being conducted in accordance with Colorado law,” a spokesman for the Secretary of State said in an email. “The Department of State is aware of the filing and does not have any further comment.”
He also said the office was aware of clerks receiving letters like the ones received by Guynes.
Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Bo Ortiz confirmed receiving several such letters. “I stopped counting at 30,” he said. Delta County Clerk Teri Stephenson said she was up to about 50 or 55 letters.
The secretary’s earlier announcement of the recall stated bipartisan canvass boards were to complete logic and accuracy testing of the tabulation equipment prior to the recount.
Colorado also completed a statewide risk-limiting audit on Nov. 22, which confirmed the reported winner in all audited races.
Montrose County’s recount results
State law triggered a mandatory recount when votes for Frisch fell within 0.5% of Boebert’s.
All 26 counties in CD3 (and the part of Eagle County it encompasses) were required to conduct a recount, even though Frisch conceded the race on Nov. 18 and he said he did not expect a recount would change the result.
Not all counties had completed their recounts as of Wednesday. Delta County expects to finish sometime Thursday. Pueblo County reported it was about two-thirds of the way done.
Results are due Dec. 13.
Montrose County’s results were not a surprise, with the recount here having shifted one vote from each candidate, leaving 7,627 for Frisch (originally 7,628) and 12,978 for Boebert, who originally had 12,979.
Adjudicators had to physically inspect the ballots that had stray marks to determine voter intent. These marks, or “pen rests” in which the oval next to a candidate name is or appears to be partially marked, have to be reviewed. By guidance, if an oval has a slight mark in it, but is not filled in when other ovals on the ballot are, such pen rests do not count as votes, Guynes said.
Despite the high-profile nature of the CD3 race, there were plenty of under-votes in Montrose County, Guynes said.
“There were a lot of no votes in that contest. A lot of people voted their ballot and left that contest blank,” she said.
Montrose County conducted its recall on the first day possible, which was Monday, working hard to finish it Tuesday afternoon.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.