County officials preparing for expected recount
Cascade County Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Nov. 22 to discuss planning for the expected recount in the clerk and recorder’s election.
The county canvas board, which typically includes three elected officials, this year included two elected officials and one county staff member from the elections office, met on Nov. 18 to conduct the canvas and certify the election results.
After all ballots were counted, incumbent Rina Fontana Moore was trailing Sandra Merchant by 31 votes.
That difference is within the state law threshold of one-quarter of a percent of the votes cast in the race that allows a candidate to request a recount at the county’s expense.
Moore has five days from the canvas to request the recount.
Moore told The Electric on Nov. 14 after the provisional ballots were counted and the difference went from 20 votes on election night to 31 that she trusted the process and the machines but wanted a recount to show those who have been critical of her office and the county system what’s involved in a hand count.
Some locals have asked the county to count all ballots by hand and eliminate absentee ballots. Some draft legislation has been developed for the upcoming Legislative session.
During their special meeting, commissioners will discuss and potentially take action to contract Rutherford Consulting of Yellowstone County to administer the recount process.
In past recounts in the county, such as the 2015 City Commission race when two candidates were within 11 votes of each other and the county recounted those ballots by hand.
Moore said there were about 18,000 ballots case in that election and it took officials three days to complete the recount.
Bret Rutherford, the firm’s principal, served Yellowstone county in their elections department since 2005 and as the county’s appointed chief elections administrator since 2010. He resigned the position to start this consulting firm in September of 2022, according to County Commissioner Joe Briggs.
“The meeting on the 22nd will allow the commission to discuss and formalize the processes that will be required to carry out the recount in a timely fashion once it is formally requested,” Briggs said.
The total cost will depend on the method and staffing used as well as the number of days required but Rutherford’s bid amount for his services to run the process is $4,300 plus per diem and travel assuming a one-day recount, Briggs told The Electric.
So far, Briggs said commissioners had not been involved in the selection process.
He said the county attorney’s office requested aid from the Secretary of State and was denied any on site assistance but obtained a list of individuals in the state with the appropriate experience to administer the recount so none of the existing elections staff would have to fill that role.
The county attorney’s office vetted the potential names and reached out to Rutherford to get the bid, Briggs said.
The agenda and Zoom access information is posted on the county website.