The number of votes counted in Jerome County was misrepresented on the website of the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, making it appear that a Democratic nominee had won a seat in the House of Representatives, the Jerome County Elections Office said in a news release Thursday.
While the Jerome County release did not specify which candidates were affected, Assistant Secretary of State Chad Houck said the miscount affected Legislative District 26, Seat B, which initially showed Democrat Karma Metzler Fitzgerald the winner by 383 votes. Under the new legislature map created after the redistribution, District 26 includes Blaine, Lincoln, and Jerome counties.
After the table was corrected, Metzler lost Fitzgerald to Republican Jack Nelsen by a narrow margin of 83 votes according to the new total. It also reduced Democrat Ned Burns’ lead to just 38 votes and Democrat Ron Taylor’s win over Republican Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome, to 512 votes instead of about 1,000, but didn’t change the outcome.
Houck said Jerome County consulted with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office to determine the cause of the discrepancies and found that between the tabulated results and the way the results were posted on the Secretary of State’s website on election night , there was a missing configuration of the “voting type” .
The polling station marks the ballots according to the distinguishing features of absenteeism, early voting and election day to track statistical information, Houck said, and when the results were reported to the state, early voting ballot type was not included in the total. He compared it to an Excel spreadsheet formula that failed to capture a column’s data.
“Although the data in the spreadsheet accurately reflected what their machine results were and what they reconciled that night, what the public visibly saw did not reflect those numbers,” Houck said.
The incident underscores the fact that all results released on election nights are unofficial until the voting process is complete and the results are certified, Houck said, but it also reflects the checks and balances that ultimately help ensure the result is accurate. The deadline for the Idaho State Board of Advertising to meet and confirm the election results is November 23.
“It is important to understand that the original totals printed by the tabulation equipment were correct, remain unchanged and allowed for the correct reconciliation with the ballot book records and voter counts calculated on the evening of November 8,” the press release reads.
Houck reiterated that the paper results were accurate and would stand up to a recount if the contestant requested one.
Avery Roberts, spokeswoman for the Idaho Democratic Party, said the party is not sure if it will seek another recount.
“Our next step is to look at the official district selection. Once we get that, we’ll have a better idea of whether or not a recount makes sense,” Roberts said.
Metzler Fitzgerald posted on Facebook Wednesday that she has already applied for Idaho Capitol keys, a parking permit and committee motions, and plans to attend Monday’s Legislative Sessions in Lewiston.
Prior to the reversal, the balance of power in the Idaho Legislature remained unchanged from the previous year. Now Republicans have won a seat, with 59 Republicans in the Legislature and 28 in the Senate. The Democrats now have a total of 18 seats between the two houses.