Caloia leads in DA race, Beeson narrows gap

Nelson Harvey
Post Independent contributor
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentNinth District Attorney Martin Beeson, far right, and challenger Sherry Caloia, far left, attended the county clerk's election briefing at the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday afternoon. The briefing was attended by more than a dozen concerned citizens and members of the media. Also shown from left are, Garfield County Democratic Party Chairman Jack Real, Post Independent reporter Nelson Harvey, KDNK reporter Amy Hadden Marsh, and Eagle Valley citizen election official Harvie Branscomb.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Twenty-four hours after the polls closed on Election Day, Democrat Sherry Caloia remained ahead of incumbent Republican Martin Beeson by a razor-thin margin of 124 votes in the race for 9th District Attorney.

The margin was 159 votes as of 1 a.m. Wednesday, but on Wednesday afternoon, officials in Garfield County recounted 292 ballots that had been “corrupted” during transfer from an electronic drive to a vote counting machine last week. In those ballots, 271 votes were cast in the DA’s race.

The 9th Judicial District includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Pitkin counties.

As of Thursday, Caloia had 17,300 votes, or 50.2 percent of the total, while Beeson trailed with 17,176, or 49.8 percent.

Those results, however, do not include some 559 provisional ballots issued in Garfield County on Election Day, many of which will be incorporated into the official count that the county submits to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Nov. 23.

So far, Beeson leads in Garfield County 52.8 percent to 47.1 percent, making it possible that counting the provisional ballots could change the balance of this race.

“From my perspective, the numbers are moving in the right direction,” said Beeson. “We are edging ever so close to the margin needed for a recount. At this point we just have to hunker down and see how the numbers move in the next two weeks.”

In addition to provisional ballots, there are also about 70 ballots with signature issues or other discrepancies that Garfield County officials may ultimately include in the vote total, along with any ballots that may arrive from military service members abroad between now and Nov. 23. Finally, Pitkin County officials have about 200 provisional ballots to count before tabulating their official results.

So far, Pitkin County voters have favored Caloia by a margin of nearly two to one. Beeson has been similarly dominant in Rio Blanco County.

All of this makes it possible that the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office could order a recount after receiving official vote tallies later this month. Under Colorado law, a recount is triggered if the vote difference between two candidates is less than one half of 1 percent of the top candidate’s total. At present, the margin between Caloia and Beeson is about seven-tenths of a percent of Caloia’s vote total, meaning it would need to shrink slightly for the race to officially qualify for a recount.

“At this point I am prepared for a recount,” Caloia said. “Once the campaign was over, I was calm. It was out of my control.”

Interviewed Wednesday afternoon, Beeson sounded a similarly positive note. “It’s exciting to be in a close race like this, that’s come down to the wire,” said Beeson. “I have faith in the process, faith in the system.”

The race to finish counting votes for the 9th District Attorney in Garfield County was complicated late Tuesday by an electronic glitch that ” corrupted” 292 mail-in ballots received by the county.

According to Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico, the problem arose on Friday, Nov. 2, as county officials were transferring a batch of mail-in ballots from an electronic drive to their vote counting machine. During that process, she said, a power surge occurred, corrupting 292 of the votes on the drive and rendering them uncountable.

On Wednesday afternoon, county officials assembled a resolution board to verify that the 292 votes were valid, and were recounted accurately. The board is comprised of two registered Democrats and two registered Republicans, temporarily employed by the county to resolve such disputes.

In addition to the resolution board, two monitors representing the Democratic and Republican Party, respectively, were on hand to oversee the proceedings, as were two observers from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

After the board verified the legitimacy of the ballots, they were re-scanned, uploaded and incorporated into the preliminary election results, helping Beeson close the gap with Caloia by 35 votes.

Alberico said the county had not experienced Election Day glitches of this sort in the past.

“This is a new system, and this is the first time that this has happened to us,” she said.

The county uses an electronic vote counting system manufactured by Hart Intercivic, a voting machine manufacturer.

Because of the relatively low number of votes in question, the glitch should not affect races other than the district attorney’s contest, Alberico said.