MINOT — It will be the most closely watched board meeting ever held at the new County building. And with good reason.
In the recent June 14 election unofficial voting results for the Republican representative ticket in District 3 showed incumbent Jeff Hoverson leading challenger Roscoe Streyle by a single vote – 617 to 616. The tally will change when the Ward County Canvassing Board meets to certify election results, scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Monday, June 27 at the County Administration Building.
Ward County Auditor Marisa Haman says the Canvassing Board has some additional ballots to consider for inclusion in the final results.
“We have two absentee ballots and one set-aside from District 3 that will be reviewed at canvassing,” said Haman.
The number of absentee ballots could change as they are accepted up to the date of canvassing, provided they were postmarked by midnight prior to the recent election. A set-aside ballot is one that was not entered into an electronic counting machine because the voter did not meet a certain requirement, such as identity or proof of address.
In that event, the completed ballot is “set aside,” allowing the voter in question to later provide sufficient proof of eligibility to the county auditor prior to canvassing. It is up to the Canvassing Board to review all absentee and set-aside ballots and determine whether they should be included in the final vote tally.
In the case of the District 3 Republican race, the additional ballots can swing the outcome of the election, or even result in a tie vote. In any event it appears Hoverson and Streyle are headed for a recount. A recount is mandatory if the difference between those two candidates is eight votes or less. That threshold is determined by one percent of the votes cast for the top vote getter, which was 788 votes for newcomer Lori VanWinkle. A candidate trailing by more than one percent, but less than two percent, can pay for a recount.
There’s another factor in play in the recent election too. Amber Vibeto, Dis. 3 chairman, voiced concern about the possibility that some voters may have cast ballots in the wrong district.
“There was redistricting. Some voters may have had the wrong ballots,” said Vibeto. “I don’t know.”
What is known is that it is the Canvassing Board’s obligation to determine what ballots are valid and are to be included in the final vote. The final verification for the legislative race would be filed with the North Dakota Secretary of State before any recount would get underway.
“Any recount would be after state canvassing on July 1,” said Haman. “So, I’m thinking sometime after that date.”
County Canvassing Boards are comprised of the “County Auditor, County Recorder, Chairman of the County Commissioners, and at least one representative from each of the two political parties receiving the most votes in the last gubernatorial election, for a minimum of five members.”