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Results stand in Foster County election

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news Jamestown, 58401
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

The results of the June 10 election in Foster County will stand after the county canvassing board re-canvassed the results following last week’s recount that falsely showed 300 ballots were missing.

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“We re-fed all the official ballots that we had in our possession back through the election machine, and those counts matched with what the recount board hand counted last week, which is 1,153 (ballots),” County Auditor Teresa Risovi said. “Taking the official ballot count looking at how many ballots I had ordered, how many official ballots that were left that were never used based off of how many I sent out, how many were received and the difference, we ended up being short six ballots and in the (North Dakota) secretary of state’s mind that is dead on. The company I ordered the official ballots from, ES&S, they have a disclaimer that says their packets could be over or under five ballots each, so as far as the state is concerned, we’re golden.”

The recount was demanded by Foster County Commission candidate Donnie Theis following an earlier re-canvassing of the June 10 election on July 28. In the election, six candidates ran for four spots on the November ballot with the top four vote-getters going on to race at large for the two commission seats up for grabs. Theis had finished in fifth place behind the current Commission Chairman Paul Straley by 15 votes. The canvassing board threw out two ballots it had previously accepted, which shortened Straley’s lead to 13 votes and made the difference in the race exactly 2 percent, entitling Theis to demand a recount at his own expense.

Risovi said the 300 extra ballots that were electronically reported to the secretary of state’s office were due to 100 test ballots that had been run through the three ES&S M100 voting machines prior to the election, as required by law. Risovi said the machine had a display that showed the test ballots had been zeroed out, but they remained on the machines’ memory cards.

In an email exchange between Foster County State’s Attorney Paul Murphy and Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Jaeger confirms Risovi’s theory about the test ballots.

“Because the count is off by exactly 300, we think it is related to the test run that was made prior to the election,” Jaeger said. “… We suspect that inadvertently the respective 100 numbers were not cleared from the ERM (Electronic Results Management system).”

Jaeger said based on the information available to his office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s office, he did not feel any further investigation is warranted.

“As we understand it, during the recount process, an accurate vote count was determined for the country races being recounted and the number of ballots cast matched the same number of names listed in the poll book,” Jaeger said.

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at dluessen@jamestownsun.com

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