Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula County Elections Office on Wednesday began working to resolve 12 ballots that were rejected in Tuesday's race in Ward 6 for City Council, and the results could sway the outcome of the night's closest contest.

Incumbent Ward 6 council member Sandra Vasecka is currently five votes behind challenger Sean Patrick McCoy. More than 3,100 ballots were cast in the ward, which saw 27 votes for write-in candidates.

The margin between Vasecka and McCoy is close enough to prompt a recount if the rejected ballots don't change the equation.

“We've got 12 rejected ballots floating around Ward 6,” said Bradly Seaman, the Missoula County elections administrator. “Any rejected ballots that get resolved by 5 p.m. get added to the totals on Monday.”

Tuesday' night's outcome wasn't the first time Vascka has been in a nail-biting race. Four years ago, she defeated her opponent by 12 votes. That race saw six ballots rejected and two were resolved by deadline, giving each candidate one additional vote.

This time around, Seaman said one of two thresholds will come to bear to prompt a recount. One would occur if the threshold between candidates remains below 0.25%. That would allow a recount, which the city would fund.

But if the threshold is between 0.25% and 0.50%, the candidate trailing in the election would have to bond a recount. The two candidates are currently separated by 0.17%.

But first, those 12 rejected ballots must be resolved. Ballots can be rejected for a number of causes, such as a missing signature.

“We won't really know how many more votes we'll be adding to those totals until Monday at 3 p.m.,” said Seaman. “We'll first do that provisional count, then we'll canvas the election.”

The last City Council race to have a recount also took place in Ward 6 in 2019. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current File)
The last City Council race to have a recount also took place in Ward 6 in 2019. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current File)

The official canvass is set to take place on Nov. 20. If the resolved ballots don't change the outcome, the trailing candidate will have five days to petition a recount after the canvass takes place.

“Once they submit that petition, we'll have five days to call our recount board,” Seaman said. “I'm just kind of planning on it.”

The recount board in the last case included two Missoula County commissioner and other elected officials. The recount took roughly five hours.