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What to expect as final votes are tallied in razor-thin race between Boebert and Adam Frisch

There is still an eight-day period in which county clerks can accept ballots from military and overseas voters
Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert and challenger Adam Frisch are seen at their various watch parties. (The Colorado Sun)

County clerks in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District are still counting ballots in the tight race between Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger, former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch.

Boebert was leading Frisch by 652 votes — or less than 1 percentage point — as of 4:13 p.m. Thursday.

Matt Crane, who leads the nonpartisan Colorado County Clerks Association, had expected clerks in the district, which spans the Western Slope into Pueblo and southeast Colorado, to finish counting regular ballots as soon as Wednesday evening. But as of Thursday afternoon, ballots were still being counted.

Crane said there were fewer than 5,000 uncounted ballots in Mesa County as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Gilbert Ortiz, the Pueblo County clerk, said at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday his office still had about 6,000 ballots to count. (Eagle County Treasurer Teak Simonton, a former clerk and recorder, is supervising Pueblo County’s election. She was appointed by Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold because of errors by Ortiz’s office during past primary and general elections.)

Ortiz, a Democrat, is working with a team of exhausted election judges, many of whom worked 18 hours on Tuesday. He said some are leaving as the day goes on, making it difficult to predict exactly when the counting will be finished.

“I want to finish tonight, but I’m not willing to sacrifice accuracy for speed at this point,” he said. “I just want to get the truth out.”

Mesa and Pueblo counties account for 44% of the active voters in the 3rd District. Another 276,000 voters are spread among all or part of 25 other counties in the district. There are 493,214 active, registered voters in the 3rd District.

But the ballot counting process won’t be quite over once Mesa and Pueblo counties finish processing mail-in and in-person ballots. Clerks have eight days to accept military and overseas ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. They also must go through provisional ballots, which are used by people who vote in person but whose eligibility is in question. After Election Day, the voter’s eligibility is evaluated to determine if their provisional ballot should be counted.

“Over the last 10 years, since we went to same-day voter registration, our number of provisional ballots has dropped to almost nothing,” Crane said.

Voters also have eight days after Election Day to “cure” their ballots if they were rejected for issues like a signature that doesn’t match what’s in the state’s voter records. Frisch was encouraging his supporters who have been notified that their ballot needs curing to try to address the problem by texting the Secretary of State’s Office.

Ballots from military and overseas voters, as well as provisional ballots and ballots that need to be cured by voters all could make the difference in the outcome of the election.

It’s impossible to say how many ballots will fall into one of those categories. It can range from a few ballots to dozens. “There’s no rhyme or reason,” Crane said.

Crane said he wants the public to know that everything that’s happening with the vote count in the 3rd District race is normal. (Some election conspiracy theorists already are casting doubt on the 2022 results in Colorado. There is no evidence of malfeasance.)

“Everything that’s happening now is happening according to law,” he said. “There’s nothing nefarious happening. It’s a very methodical process. There are election judges involved from both parties at every possible step. There are watchers overseeing everything going on right now. It’s very transparent. Things are happening exactly how they should be happening.”

When does a recount happen

An automatic recount is triggered under Colorado law when the difference between the number of votes cast between the leading candidate and the losing candidate is less than 0.5% of the number of votes cast for the leading candidate.

So, for instance: If Ronald McDonald had 1,000 votes and the Burger King had 999 votes, the one-vote difference represents 0.1% of McDonald’s votes. Thus, a recount is triggered.

Colorado candidates can also pay for recounts. That’s what happened in the Republican primary for secretary of state this year. However, the recount must be conducted in the same manner in which the original vote tabulation was undertaken.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.