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Diane Sands hugs Jon Ellingson, former Montana Senate majority leader and supporter of her campaign, after an initial recount in November.

Diane Sands is victorious.

On Monday, the Missoula County Elections Office reported the recount in Senate District 49 put Democrat Sands at 3,932 and Republican Dick Haines at 3,897.

"I am incredibly relieved to have this process completed," Sands said in a phone call after the votes were tallied. "It is so heartening that the elections process is so absolutely precise and how dedicated the elections staff are to making sure they find every ballot and that every vote counts."

Shortly before 6 p.m., elections administrator Rebecca Connors said the recount process was complete. The outcome gives Sands 35 more votes than Haines.

"We've re-canvassed and signed off, and that will be our new total," Connors said.

After Election Day, Haines was 31 votes behind Sands. The margin was slim enough that the former Missoula city councilman was allowed to request a recount as long as he posted a bond for it.

He put up $2,637, and the long recount process began last Thursday.

For a short time late Monday afternoon, Connors believed the Board of County Commissioners would have to undertake another recount later this week because of a discrepancy of 80 votes.

Soon after, though, the Elections Office identified the reason for the disparity.

"There was an extra bag of ballots, two sets of ballots from the polling place, and we inadvertently just did not include those with the rest of them," Connors said.

Those ballots were quickly counted and the process completed.

Sands previously served four sessions in the Montana House of Representatives. When the Montana Legislature convenes for the 2015 session, the longtime legislator will be the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sands said she wants to take some lessons learned in Missoula and apply them across Montana. After scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, for instance, local law enforcement is changing the way it responds to victims of sexual crimes and prosecutes rape.

"My priority bill on Judiciary is to ensure that the best practices, policies and procedures that have come out of the Missoula-Department of Justice situation are implemented across the state," Sands said.

She also said she is pursuing an interim study on sexual assault across the state. A recent federal report shows two out of three Native American women are sexually assaulted in their life, she said.

"We've got to look at this as a systemwide problem, and it's just got to end," Sands said.

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University of Montana, higher education