The results of the State House District 24 race election recount Monday turned out exactly the same between State Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, and Challenger Nina Webber. Newsome still won by 83 votes.
“I expect the results to be exactly 83 votes,” Webber said before the recount.
Webber had requested a recount of the 3,747 ballots cast in the Aug. 16 primary election. She said she spoke with Secretary of State Republican nominee Chuck Gray about the issue, who, she said told her, there shouldn’t be a single vote that is different.
“We’re very pleased that the recount confirmed the initial results,” said Park County Clerk Colleen Renner. “We hope it gives the public additional confidence in our elections here in Wyoming.”
Gray ran a campaign based on election conspiracy theories, hosting free showing of the “2000 Mules” movie, which alleges with questionable evidence the 2020 election was rigged. Webber said this movie influenced her perspective on election security.
Although Newsome said she had no issue with the recount taking place, she also didn’t see it coming and didn’t consider their race to be “really close.”
“I earned well over 50% of the vote,” she said. “People have the right to use the system. Hopefully, people will have more belief in the same system for voting.”
Since Newsome won by 2.3% of the vote, Webber had to request the recount. In Wyoming, a recount is only triggered for races determined by 1% or less of the vote between the winner and their nearest challenger.
Both Webber and Newsome were on hand for Monday’s recount.
Webber said she requested the recount after hearing requests from her supporters to do so and when she became aware of alleged voting machine issues in Carbon County.
These issues involved about 550 absentee ballots that were unable to be counted by a ES&S DS450 machine, due to folding marks covering up certain ovals on the ballot sheets.
“It was simply due to where ballots were folded by the voter,” said Gwynn Bartlett, Carbon County clerk.
All of the absentee ballots were then moved over to an older, DS200 machine, where they were all counted without issue.
Park County used the same DS450 machine to count its absentee ballots with no issues of any kind on election night. Of the 3,717 ballots cast in the race, 1,698 were from either early or absentee voters.
“The reason for the recount is specifically with the absentee ballots,” Webber said.
Webber requested the recount take place on a DS200, a request that Renner rejected. Renner said she denied this request because the DS200 involves a much more time intensive and exhaustive process, as every ballot has to be hand-fed into that machine. Conversely, the DS450 can read stacks of 50-100 ballots at a time.
The last recount to occur in Park County was in 2016 when two were requested.
One of these was for Independent State Senate candidate Cindy Baldwin, who requested a recount of her general election race against Hank Coe. Coe won that election by more than 1,400 votes.
An older machine, since retired for election-use, was used for this recount, which Renner said took nearly a whole day.
Monday’s recount was much more expedient, running less than two hours.
Park County elections staff got the DS450 running without issue. Between each ballot stack, Park County Deputy Clerk Hans Odde would use a jogger to automatically shuffle and organize the ballots, vibrating with a friendly buzz during each use.
“Really handy when you have 2,000 absentee ballots,” Odde remarked with a chuckle.
Since Newsome was still the winner of the race after the recount, Webber will be charged $500 for the employee time spent facilitating the recount. Total cost for the recount was $751.35.
In elections decided by a 1%-5% margin between the winner and their closest challenger, state statute requires the candidate requesting the recount to pay for up to $500 of the recount cost if the results do not change. That cost increases to up to $3,000 in races decided by more than 5% of the vote.
Webber waited until three hours of the final deadline to request the recount at 2 p.m. Friday. State law requires a recount be performed within 72 hours of a request being made, so Park County employees came in on Saturday to prepare.
Webber would prefer Wyoming run hand count ballot elections and has questions about the security and accuracy of modern elections. After the recount results came back, she expressed new confidence in Wyoming’s elections.
“It kind of shores up a couple problems,” she said. “Park County voters can feel better on that.”
The secretary of state’s office also ran a new post-election audit in all 23 counties for the primary, selecting about 3,000 ballots at random that were adjudicated with 100% accuracy.
The race between Newsome and Webber was contentious, with both candidates openly criticizing each other in numerous advertisements.
Newsome spent and raised more than any State House candidate in Wyoming, bringing in $42,173 and spending $39,334. She received $13,650 from political action committees.
Webber, who also lost in 2020 against Newsome, indicated she does not plan to step away from politics despite the loss. She is currently a national committeewoman for the Wyoming Republican Party.
“A lot of people will tell you when you didn’t win to just give up,” Webber said. “I’m not getting the message.”
Another recount was performed in Northeast Wyoming this year in the House race between State Rep. JD Williams, R-Lusk, and Allen Slagle. Slagle received one fewer vote in the recount, diminishing his win to a margin of 12 votes.
The 2022 primary had the highest voter turnout on record in Wyoming for a primary election. In Lincoln County, a polling place lost power due to a car crashing into a nearby powerline. In Laramie County, a tabulator jammed and was unable to receive ballots for a short period of time. Staff were able to overcome both these obstacles.