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As state of Idaho certifies primary election results, outcomes remain the same

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(From left) Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth, Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney and State Controller Brandon Woolf certify election results June 1 as Ada County Clerk/ Secretary of State candidate Phil McGrane looks on from behind the table. (Clark Corbin/Idaho Capita Sun)

Results of the May 17 primary are now official and candidates may seek a recount

The Idaho State Board of Canvassers voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to certify results of the state’s May 17 primary elections, making the results official for the first time.

The canvass can be thought of as a reconciliation of all the votes in all the races, and it is different from a recount. The findings of the canvass did not show the outcome from any of the races would be affected or changed, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said.

“At the end of the day, all of those numbers add up,” Denney said.

Although Idahoans saw election results and the news media widely reported on initial, unofficial election results released by the state and counties after polls closed, the election results did not actually become official until they were certified Wednesday at the Idaho State Capitol.

That’s not a new or different process for this year’s election.

“There is a process, but in our fast-moving society, we are just used to that instant gratification, so it’s done and it’s over,” Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck told the Idaho Capital Sun.

“It’s one more step in a very well thought through, longstanding and consistently applied election process that Idaho has altered very little since the 1970s,” Houck added. “It’s established, it’s trusted, and you can rely on it.”

State law outlines the process, which gives county commissioners seven days after a primary election to canvass results. The law then calls for the State Board of Canvassers to certify the election results within 15 days of the primary election.

The State Board of Canvassers includes Denney, State Controller Brandon Woolf and State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth. Before certifying election results Wednesday, the three officials reviewed election data from the canvasses of all 44 counties and received a briefing by the staff from the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. The data included election results down to the county and precinct level. It also included voter turnout data by county and absentee and early voting totals by county.

“We literally go through, down to the single vote, and reconcile out any discrepancies,” Houck said.

The State Board of Canvassers voted unanimously to certify the election results after staff from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office told them there were no problems with the results. During the briefing, Deputy Secretary of State Jason Hancock told the State Board of Canvassers the staff pulled all of the data from the counties’ canvasses and cross-checked the data with live election night results reported to the state May 17. Hancock said the process uncovered a small number of variances, the largest of which were three or four variances in races that Hancock said were not close. Hancock said the staff then went through to determine if the error was made in the canvass or in reporting the live election results May 17. Hancock said reasons for the variances included typographical errors or data entry errors, such as transposing two different numbers.

“We got it all resolved and ironed out,” Hancock told the Sun. “This is why we do the canvass. It forces us to look at these things, and we didn’t find anything in any close races (that would change the outcome).”

“That is the reason why there are seven days between the election night and the canvass itself and another seven days before the state certifies,” Houck added. “It is like any good accounting process where you go back and double check and have another set of eyes look at it and go back through.”

Now that election results are officially certified, candidates have 20 days to formally request a recount with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.

Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, told the Idaho Capital Sun he will seek a recount after losing the closest primary election in the state by six votes to fellow incumbent Rep. Judy Boyle R-Midvale. In that race, Boyle defeated Syme by a margin of 4,636 votes to 4,630 votes.

Under Idaho law, the state will pay for Syme’s recount because the difference between the two vote totals was less than .1%. Any other legislative candidate may also request a recount with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office within 20 days, though they would have to pay $100 per precinct for the recount since no other legislative or statewide races were within a .1% margin.

Even though this can be confusing, the canvass and certification and recounts are different. The certification involved comparing and reconciling the data reported on the night of the election with the data from the county canvasses and reconciling any differences between the two.

“We’ve done all the math, and there is not a math error in there,” Houck said. “It doesn’t address whether there is a counting error.”

Houck has previously told the Sun he heard that a recount will also be requested in Madison County, where former Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, defeated incumbent Rep. Ron Nate, also R-Rexburg, by 36 votes. However, Nate would have to pay for the recount if he wants one because the difference was not within .1%. Nate could not be reached for comment.

Once a request for a recount is filed, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden will issue an order for a recount to take place within 10 days, and order the relevant county sheriff to sequester the ballots.