Recount underway in Teton County after sealed box of ballots discovered
DRIGGS – Election officials in Teton County found a box of uncounted ballots Wednesday after tabulating the unofficial results in Tuesday night’s election.
The discovery of uncounted ballots could change the outcome of this election.
Democrat Bob Heneage was unofficially declared the winner in the District 3 county commissioner race. Initial results show Heneage beat his opponent, Republican Pete Moyer, by just eight votes. Heneage earned a total of 2,147 votes, and Moyer had 2,139 votes.
Three candidates were also vying for a seat on the county commission in District 2. The current tally shows Democrat Mike Whitfield beat out his Republican opponent, John Smaellie, by 228 votes. Whitfield had 52% of the vote for a total of 2,243 votes. Smaellie had 47% of the vote, for a total of 2,015 votes. Independent candidate Penny Vasquez earned 1% of the vote, for a total of 22 votes.
Elections Clerk Kim Keeley was not immediately available for comment, but a news release on the county’s website indicates officials are reconvening Wednesday for a recount.
“I am going to be counting the ballots for the next few hours,” Keeley writes in an email to EastIdahoNews.com.
The county elections director discovered a discrepancy in the number of early voting ballots issued and received during a Wednesday morning review of the results. The news release says 959 early voting ballots were issued, but only 557 were received.
After a conversation with the election software provider, election officials reviewed all ballot boxes and found a box with its original seal that had not been processed.
“When the seal is broken, with members of the public present, the seal will be matched against the Affidavit of Empty Ballot Box, placed in the box before the first ballot is cast. The first voter signs the Affidavit before the box is sealed and the vote cast,” the news release says.
Following every election, the Office of the Secretary of State randomly selects eight counties for a comprehensive election audit to ensure transparency and public confidence in election integrity. Teton County volunteered to be one of the eight counties audited and is waiting to hear back.
Meanwhile, the Central Count Committee, comprised of four community members, is reconvening in the commissioner’s meeting room at 4 p.m. to open the ballot box and re-tabulate the votes.
“The ballot box will be opened, the security seal confirmed, and then the ballots will be run through the tabulator,” officials say. “Upon tabulation, the vote tally will be updated, posted on the (county’s) website and Secretary of State Website, but will remain unofficial until the vote is canvassed on Monday morning at 9:30 am by the Board of Canvassers. The Office of the Clerk and the Office of the Secretary of the State cannot impress upon the public enough that the vote remains unofficial until the vote is canvassed.”
Candidates, party representatives and community members are welcome to watch the recount in person or via Zoom here.