GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - After a glitch counting 292 mail-in ballots in Garfield County left the Ninth District Attorney's race up in the air Tuesday night, county officials are now scrambling to recount the offending ballots and issue complete results.
At present, Democratic challenger Sherry Caloia is leading incumbent DA Martin Beeson, a Republican, by a margin of 159 votes. Caloia has 17,182 votes, or 50.3 percent of the total, while Beeson had 17,023 votes, or 49.7 percent.
"At this point I am prepared for a recount," Caloia said. "Once the campaign was over, I was calm. It was out of my control."
"It's exciting to be in a close race like this, that's come down to the wire," said Beeson. "I have faith in the process, faith in the system."
Theoretically, the 292 ballots in question could reverse the current trend and put Beeson over the top. For that to happen, however, Beeson would have to win substantially more of those ballots than the 52 percent that he has won in Garfield County so far.
According to Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico, election officials discovered the glitch while counting ballots late last night.
Alberico said the problem arose on Friday, Nov. 2, as county officials were transferring a batch of mail-in ballots from an electronic drive to thier vote counting machine. During that process, she said, a power surge occured, corrupting 292 of the votes on the drive and rendering them uncountable.
On Wednesday afternoon, county officials assembled a resolution board to verify that the 292 votes are valid, and are recounted accurately. The board is comprised of one registered Democrat and one registered Republican used by the county to resolve such disputes.
The board, Alberico said, would verify the legitimacy of the ballots, which would then be re-scanned, uploaded and incorporated into the preliminary election results.
She expected the process to be complete by "the end of the day" today, though she did not specify a time.
In addition to the resolution board, two monitors representing the Democratic and Republican Party, respectively, were on hand to oversee the proceedings, as were two observers from the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Alberico said the county had not experienced Election Day glitches of this sort in the past.
"This is a new system, and this is the first time that this has happened to us," she said.
The county uses an electronic vote counting system manufactured by Hart Intercivic, a voting machine manufacturer.
Because of the relatively low number of votes in question, the glitch should not affect races other than the District Attorney's contest, Alberico said.