HELENA – In a surprising turnaround, Republican state superintendent of public instruction candidate Sandy Welch on Tuesday abandoned her effort for a recount of the votes in her narrow Nov. 6 defeat by Democratic incumbent Denise Juneau.
Welch, who just four days ago secured a judge’s order for the recount, said she decided to back out because she hadn’t raised enough money to pay for the statewide hand recounting of some 468,000 ballots.
“We had a number of pledges, but we didn’t have the cash in the bank when it came time to post the bond,” she said.
District Judge Stewart Stadler had given Welch until 5 p.m. Tuesday to post a $115,000 bond.
Under state law, the state pays for a recount if the margin between the two candidates is less than 0.25 percent of the total vote. But if the margin is between 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent, the candidate asking for the recount must post a bond for the cost and pay those costs if he or she doesn’t win.
The official vote count has Juneau winning by 2,231 votes, or 0.48 percent of the more than 468,500 votes cast.
Juneau, who won a second four-year term as the state’s top public school official, said Welch called her Tuesday to concede the race.
Juneau said she’s pleased that the race is finally over, and that she’s looking forward to preparing and presenting her education agenda for the 2013 Legislature to consider.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, the state’s chief election officer, said Tuesday she’s disappointed the recount has been called off. Counties and state officials stood ready to do the recount and were looking forward to showing that vote-counting on Nov. 6 was accurate, she said.
In documents filed with the court, Welch alleged widespread problems with vote counting on Nov. 6, including ballots that jammed in vote-counting machines and may have been miscounted, ballots that may have had their votes assigned to the wrong candidate and ballots that weren’t properly certified.
Welch said she hopes that state and local election officials will work to correct problems that she and others uncovered as they prepared for a possible recount.
Welch also thanked her supporters and the many people she met and spoke with during the campaign.
“It’s really been a fabulous experience to know there are so many people working for our kids,” she said.
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or at email@example.com.