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Close call: Potter wins by 34 votes

Jae Potter and Rose Barnes await the final count Tuesday.

Sun Advocate publisher

It's hard being on pins and needles for a week, but that is exactly where Carbon County commissioner candidates Jae Potter and David Palacios have been since the election last Tuesday.

On that evening their vote totals were only separated by five votes with Palacios getting the edge, but on Tuesday of this week, after the county clerk's staff counted the provisional and absentee ballots that had come in since the election, the vote changed and Potter won by 34 votes, 2,665 to 2,631.

The long wait was also one for Republicans in the county, which haven't held a seat on the county commission for decades. Some say it has been over 40 years while others say that it hasn't happened since the late 1930s. Regardless, with Tuesday's count a new commissioner will take his seat in January.

The clerk's office reported right after the election that there were a number of provisional ballots still left to be counted as well as 18 absentee ballots still out. However, only a few (4) of the absentee ballots were returned on time with the proper postmark (the day before the election) and the provisional ballots became the turning point.

"People often don't realize what provisional ballots are," said Alexis Horsley, the deputy county clerk. "Doing those the last few years have eliminated a lot of problems at the polling places."

Horsley and County Clerk/Auditor explained that the provisional ballots are used when someone comes to a polling place without proper identification, when they are not registered at all or have had a name change. Last week there were 155 provisional ballots cast and on Tuesday 129 of those were counted.

"We cleared most of them by getting IDs from people afterward and checking with the drivers license bureau for registrations (people can register to vote at the DMV)," said Horsley. "This lets people vote and works as a catch all and it leaves the eligibility determination until later when we can certify it."

Tuesday was the first day the clerk's office could do the canvas which certifies the vote. The county has seven to 14 days in which to do that and report to the the lieutenant governor's office.

The office also was selected to do an audit of one of the voting machines in the state. Each election the lieutenant governor's office picks about one percent of the machines which the county office must audit. That consists of taking the printed paper ballots that are sealed in a machines cannister and counting them by reading them two people who mark the votes that were on that machine on a register. Those registers much match and then the processes results are reported to the state office.

Despite vote total changes across the board because of the count, not other elections were affected because none of the others were close like the commission race.

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