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Dec 7, 2012 6:28 AM

Court to decide how to conduct recount in public instruction race

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and challenger Sandy Welch await a ruling from a judge Friday, on how a statewide recount in their race will be conducted.

Juneau defeated Welch in the November election by 2,231 votes out of nearly 469,000 cast, falling within the one-half of one percent margin. That qualifies the race for a recount.

A spokesman for Welch said there will be a hand recount of ballots, since the law allows Welch to make that request.

The Welch campaign said the judge's ruling could lead to recount procedures that could change the election's outcome.

Welch's campaign claims M650 ballot counting machines made tabulation errors and remedies for software errors were done contrary to law.

The court filing also claims that election judges did not remake ballots to correct errors, failed to issue new ballots to correct errors, failed to officially stamp ballots and failed to provide official ballots.

Welch's campaign believes it has demonstrated probable cause on why a recount could turn the election in Welch's favor.

"With the six counts we've identified, we feel there's an adequate amount to close that gap and hopefully come out with Sandy on top at the end," said Mitch Staley, a spokesman for the Welch Recount Effort. "But also to identify some of these issues with our elections process, this can also be addressed for the future."

Juneau, meanwhile, says she's confident her winning margin will stand up.

"In the end our margin is comfortable enough where I'm confident that we'll maintain the lead," Juneau said. "and I'm continuing to do the job of the superintendent and look forward to serving the state of Montana for the next four years after all of this is done."

The hearing starts Friday at 1:30 p.m. in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell.

The Secretary of State's office says elections offices are waiting for the judge's ruling on the hand recount that will cost an estimated $116,000.


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