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“Every vote counts”: The winner of the closest primary in Idaho won by 4 votes

“Every vote counts”: The winner of the closest primary in Idaho won by 4 votes
“Every vote counts”: The winner of the closest primary in Idaho won by 4 votes

After a free recount last month, Fuhriman was certified as the winner of his primary by four votes. Fuhriman is a Republican from the eastern Idaho town of Shelley. He defeated incumbent Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot) in the Republican primary for Seat B in the Idaho House of Representatives’ 30th District.

“The underlying story is that here in Idaho, we tend to think our votes don’t mean anything because we’re such a Republican state, and we get complacent about voting, especially at the national level,” Fuhriman said in a phone interview. “But we forget how important local elections are.”
Young could not be reached for comment.

The result of the Idaho parliamentary primaries was so close that a free recount was possible

The first unofficial election night results, released by the state late in the evening of the May 21 primary, showed Furhiman defeating Young by 10 votes.

But when county clerks conducted their usual review of election results, they discovered a discrepancy of eight votes in Butte County, bringing Fuhriman’s victory down to two votes, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported. The Idaho Secretary of State’s office said there was a discrepancy of eight votes when the data was entered into the state’s reporting system.

This margin of two votes was so small that a free recount was possible.

In an email to her supporters on May 22, Young announced she would request a paid recount of the results because the outcome was so close. However, when the margin shrank from 10 votes to two, that meant the recount was free and Young didn’t have to pay anything. Under Idaho law, a losing candidate can request a free recount of the votes if the difference in votes between the candidates is 0.1% or five votes or less.

Rep. Julianne Young (R, Blackfoot)
In this file photo, Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot) listens to debate in the House of Representatives at the Idaho Capitol on Jan. 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Young issued a press release on June 5 announcing that she was officially requesting a recount.

“We observed significant fluctuations in the vote count during the election, with my opponent’s lead fluctuating between 10 and two votes a few days after the election,” Young wrote. “Such fluctuations raise concerns about the accuracy of the current vote count. Idaho voters have a right to have complete confidence in the accuracy and security of their elections. By requesting this recount, we are resolving any questions about the outcome of this election. This level of election due diligence is consistent with the Republican values ​​we all uphold.”

Fuhriman said he and Young have not spoken since the recount on June 20 and 21.

How did the Idaho primary recount go?

The 30th District includes Butte and Bingham counties. The recount took place on June 20 in Butte County and June 21 in Bingham County, Fuhriman said.

Both candidates and an assistant were allowed to attend and observe the recount in both counties. Representatives from the Idaho Attorney General’s office and Secretary of State were also present, Fuhriman said.
Before the recount began in Butte County, Fuhriman said, ballots were brought in in a locked box that was in the care of the county sheriff.

“You could be sure that no one had tampered with the ballots,” Fuhriman said.

Butte County counts ballots by hand. For the recount, election officials and witnesses went through the ballots and counted them again by hand, Fuhriman said. During the recount, an election official read the name of the candidate who received a vote on each ballot while another election official watched the count to make sure the correct candidate’s name was called, Fuhriman said. Meanwhile, two other election officials recorded the count at a time. Candidates and their assistants were allowed to watch the count and do their own counts, Fuhriman said.

In the recount, Young received one vote less and Fuhriman received one vote more, so the difference was four votes.

In Bingham County, ballots are scanned and counted by machine. During the June 21 recount in Bingham County, officials conducted a small hand recount to test the machines and then scanned all the ballots. The recount produced exactly the same result as the night of the primary in Bingham County, Fuhriman and Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane told the Sun.
The final result of the recount showed that Fuhriman won by 3,764 votes to 3,760.

By conducting a razor-thin election and a subsequent recount, Fuhriman gained an unusually close insight into electoral politics and processes, he said.

“We have very secure elections and very good processes,” Fuhriman said. “Over 7,000 ballots in Bingham County were recounted and the results were the same. That shows we’re doing something right. People should feel comfortable and safe voting in Idaho. The process is fair, safe and secure.”

McGrane also said the recount shows the safeguards built into Idaho’s elections. He said every step in the process worked as expected, from the county’s routine verification of election results to the recount. McGrane also said the election is an example of why election results posted online on election night are considered unofficial. Election results do not become official in Idaho until county verification and certification by the State Board of Canvassers, which happened on June 5.

“The recount was a real culmination of our processes,” McGrane said. “It should give people confidence as we prepare for the November election, knowing that we have done these audits and recounts. And it is a testament to the work of county clerks across the state.”

Were there other close races and recounts in Idaho?

McGrane said in a July 2 interview that recounts are common in Idaho, even in legislative elections. In smaller local elections, the results are so close that recounts happen every year, McGrane added.

Here are just a few of the close legislative elections in recent memory.

  • In the 2018 general election, a recount showed former Sen. Fred Martin defeating Democratic challenger Jim Bratnober in Idaho’s 15th District Senate race by 11 votes, the Associated Press reported. Originally, election results showed Martin defeating Bratnober by six votes.
  • In the 2010 general election, current Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth defeated current Senator Janie Ward-Engelking by seven votes in the race for Idaho House of Representatives Seat A in the 18th District, according to state election results available online.
  • In the 2004 Republican primary for Idaho House of Representatives Seat B in the 33rd Congressional District, former Rep. Russ Mathews defeated incumbent Rep. Lee Gagnier by six votes, according to state election results available online.

According to online election records, current Idaho House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Dave Bivens by 14 votes in the Republican primary for Seat A in Idaho’s 14th Congressional District in the year Moyle was first elected to the Idaho Legislature.

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