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Election count for Musselshell County sheriff sits at 10 ballot difference

Posted at 12:40 PM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:51:09-04


BILLINGS – There are a couple of really close races in Musselshell County that could garner recounts.

According to Musselshell County Clerk and Recorder Cheryl Tomassi there are only 10 votes separating two candidates in the race for sheriff.

Meanwhile, there are only nine votes separating the race for the County Attorney in Musselshell County.

Shawn Lesnik, who is the current undersheriff and running as a Republican, gained 1,137 votes in the election. Write-in candidate Ronnie Burns has 1,127 votes.

Tomassi said Lesnik won over Burns in the primary election, prompting Burns to run in the general election as a write-in candidate.

In July, an investigation was launched by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices into Lesnik for allegations of violating campaign finance laws.

In late October, the commissioner ruled Lesnik did violate state election laws.

However, The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Lesnik on a misconduct complaint also filed in July.

Burns took to his Facebook page to thank supporters but to also say there are numerous votes that haven’t been yet counted.

“The final count showed my opponent winning by 10 votes. According to my poll monitors, there are numerous votes for me that were not counted and they suggested that I contest those votes. I will check tomorrow on the procedure going forward. The difference is less than 1/2 % which should invoke an automatic recount. Thank you all again for your support and encouragement it is very much appreciated,” Burns wrote on Facebook

Lesnik also thanked his supporters on Facebook.

“I would like to Thank everyone for their support during this election process. I promise that I will do the very best job I can for everyone in Musselshell County, the State of Montana, and the United States of America… I took the Oath to protect and defend the Constitution at the age of nineteen and I still abide by it… Thank you for giving me this chance to continue to serve you, the Citizens of Musselshell County,” Lesnki wrote on Facebook. 

Tomassi said there are also seven provisional ballots in the race for sheriff that will be counted next Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Burns will have five days after ‘canvassing,’ which Tomassi said is when the commissioners review the election, to decide if he wants to follow through with a recount.

Canvassing is set to happen on Nov. 19, said Tomassi.

Tomassi, who also ran in this election and won by 73 percent of votes against Stormy Stigen, said that during this particular election the county had high voter turnout.

According to the Montana Secretary of State’s website, voter turnout in Musselshell County was 69 percent.

Tomassi said she’s been the clerk and recorder for the last four years and has never seen elections so close. She’s worked for the county clerk and recorder’s office since 2007.

In addition to the sheriff race being close, the race for county attorney is already flagged for a recount on the Montana secretary of state’s website.

Kevin Peterson, who ran as a Republican, has 1,166 of votes while his challenger. Independent Robert Spoja has 1,157 of votes.

However, Tomassi said the position of county attorney also overseas that jurisdiction in Golden County as well. There are 140 votes separating the two candidates in that county, still putting Peterson in the lead.

In addition to turnout, absentee voters were on the rise in Musselshell County too. Tomassi said 1,741 people voted by mail-in ballot for this election.

(Ronnie Burns, left, and Shawn Lesnik are competing for the Musselshell County sheriff’s seat)