HELENA — A statewide tally of provisional ballots from Election Day gave Democrat Denise Juneau a cushion of more than 2,200-votes Wednesday as the race for Montana schools superintendent moved toward a recount.
As the last ballots came in, Republican Sandy Welch barely hung onto the one-half of 1 percent margin she needed to request a recount. Juneau, a first-term incumbent, saw her lead increase by almost 900 votes with the provisional ballot count.
Welch plans to file her recount request as soon as the vote is certified on Nov. 27, according to her campaign. Under state law, she will have to post a bond to cover recount costs because she trails by more than one-quarter of 1 percent. The recount will cover all 56 Montana counties, in which voters cast more than 468,000 ballots.
Welch’s attorney has asked the commissioner of political practices if the Montana Republican Party can cover those costs, which he estimated at roughly $100,000. That’s almost as much as the candidate raised in a year-long campaign that had individual contribution limits of $310, said her campaign manager, Mitch Staley.
If the recount is deemed part of the election and such limits are imposed, Welch attorney Chris Gallus said his client would have difficulty raising the money to cover the costs.
Political Practices Commissioner James Murry said his office expects to respond to the Welch campaign on Thursday.
The secretary of state’s office has been compiling recount cost projections from county election officials but does not yet have an estimate.
Juneau expects her lead to stand but is lining up a team to handle the recount, her spokeswoman said.
Missoula County turned in the most provisional ballots Wednesday, about 2,000. Elections administrator Vickie Zeier said Juneau gained votes in those ballots by a more than a 2-to-1 margin over Welch.
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