Clerks to hand count undervotes in House District 61

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenNovember 8, 2010
Clerks in the five counties that make up state House District 61 agreed Monday that a hand count of undervotes in last Tuesday's election is the best way to execute a Denver District Court judge's orders.
Officials tallying ballots in the basement of the Pitkin County Library last week.
Troy Hooper

Judge James Madden ordered the clerks in the district to count any ballots that the voter wrote unaffiliated incumbent Kathleen Curry's name on the line for that race regardless of whether the oval or box next to it was marked. Curry currently trails Roger Wilson of Missouri Heights by 495 votes. There are 2,001 undervotes in the race, opening the door for her to theoretically make up the difference.

After the clerks decided on a hand count of the undervotes, Colorado Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge confirmed his office will not appeal Judge Madden's decision handed down late Friday.

There was initial speculation the count of the undervotes could begin late this week but officials in Pitkin County were talking about bringing in election judges to come in and review ballots next week.

Many election watchers are skeptical whether there will be enough votes for Curry to beat Wilson since many of the undervotes could simply be ballots in which the voter elected not to endorse a candidate in this particular race. But there are also calls from various parties who want a hand count of all votes cast in the race.

Harvie Branscomb, co-chair of the Democrats in Eagle County, maintains Judge Madden's ruling is unfair because it is limited to a hand count of the undervotes, and not of the entire HD61 election.

"I'm quite ... opposed to partially recounting the contest," Branscomb told The Denver Post for Monday's edition. "I really don't think it's fair for the court to say that the vote count can only go up for Kathleen Curry but it can't go up for any other candidate."

Supporters for Curry contend a full hand count would likely help their side because they believe it's possible there are smudge marks that might have inflated Wilson's total in the machine count.

If a hand count of all 29,390 ballots cast in the five counties were to be hand counted, it is possible all of the numbers could change since humans judging voter intent is quite different than machines doing it. A hand count of all the ballots does not appear likely, at least not at this point in time, due to the tedious work clerks say it would require.

At this point in time, all that the court has ordered is for a hand count of the undervotes in the race.

Curry, however, has said she will likely request a recount of all the votes in Pitkin County due to machine errors that occurred here. Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill and her team have acknowledged mechanical problems happened during mail-in ballot processing, but they insist the problems have been corrected.

Curry also has said if the race is close enough after all the undervotes, provisional ballots, and votes from overseas are counted, she would consider paying for a recount of the whole district. She estimated it could cost $20,000.

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