Idaho House seat reverts to Republican after problem reported

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — What initially appeared to be a Democratic victory in the Idaho House turned into a Republican victory after a glitch in early voting notification was fixed in south-central Idaho. Idaho, a state election official said Thursday.

Chief Assistant Secretary of State Chad Houck said the House seat representing Jerome, Blaine and Lincoln counties went to Republican Jack Nelsen, not Democrat Karma Metzler Fitzgerald, after more than 700 votes were cast. added to the tally on the state’s website Thursday morning. The Associated Press has yet to call that race.

Houck said Jerome County officials noticed that the vote totals on the secretary of state’s website did not match their tally for the district — District 26. Houck said his office worked with the county officials as of Wednesday and had discovered an issue that was preventing early votes in the county from being counted on the state’s website.

The change gave Nelsen victory by 83 votes – 7,916 to 7,833. Early results put him down several hundred.

The change also reduced the margin of victory in the district’s other two legislative races, but did not change those results, Houck said.

In those races, Democratic Rep. Ned Burns’ margin of victory over Republican Mike Pohanka shrunk to less than 40 out of nearly 16,000 votes cast.

In the Senate race, Democrat Ron Taylor held a margin of more than 500 votes to about 16,000 votes against Republican Representative Laurie Lickley, who was trying to make the jump to the Senate.

The AP called the race for Taylor, but made no calls in the two home races in District 26.

Houck said he didn’t see any additional changes to the totals, noted there are a series of steps counties and the state must go through before vote totals are made official later this month.

“None of these three counties have released their final results,” Houck said. “I’m not saying it’s going to change, but it’s still an unofficial result.”

He said some issues are to be expected, which is why counties have more than a week to finalize the results.

“It’s no surprise to me,” he said. “It’s a data-intensive process. It is a very intense human process. It is not uncommon to see adjustments made. It’s much more visible.

If the statewide results remain unchanged, Republicans will strengthen their House supermajority from 58 to 59 seats, dropping Democrats from 12 to 11 seats. The Senate, based on current vote totals as reported by the state, will remain at 28 Republicans and seven Democrats.

Houck noted that a problem also occurred with Teton County’s vote total involving several hundred votes. He said workers knew there was a problem when the vote total was lower than they expected. He said workers found a box of sealed and secure early votes that had not been counted. Houck said the additional votes did not change race results.

This year’s general election will be followed by an audit of randomly selected ballots in eight county constituencies. The audit follows a new law aimed at increasing public confidence in election results by verifying ballots. Republican Gov. Brad Little called for such audits earlier this year as part of his “Leading Idaho” plan that includes improving election transparency.

The first audit under the new law was carried out after the May primaries. Officials said he found only six variations from the initial results of about 20,000 ballots. About a third of Idaho’s nearly one million registered voters cast ballots in the primary.

Keith Ridler, Associated Press

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