Tempel, Tuss race hangs on provisional ballots

Havre Daily News  November 8, 2018

With all precincts now reported in the race for Senate District 14, incumbent Sen. Russ Tempel, R-Chester, appears to be the winner but the final tally when provisional ballots are counted next Tuesday could change that.

Tempel took 4,493 votes in the unofficial count, 139 more than Havre Democrat Paul Tuss’ 4,354.

As many as 140 more ballots will be counted next Tuesday, depending on verfication of their validity.

A provisional ballot is cast when a voter says they are legal to vote but their voting registration cannot be verified, such as if an absentee ballot was sent out but lost or never received and the voter votes at the polls. The ballots are verified and then counted after 3 p.m. on the Tuesday following the election.

Tempel this morning thanked Tuss for a clean campaign and said, if he ends up the victor after the final count, he is looking forward to getting back to Helena and working with the people there.

He added that the staff he worked with in Helena was incredibly good.

“I’m looking forward to getting back there with a little more experience,” Tempel said.

He was appointed to the seat in the district, which stretches from the Canadian border through Liberty, western Hill and Chouteau counties to the northeastern corner of Cascade County, to take the place of Republican Kris Hansen, who resigned her seat to take a position in the state auditor’s office.

He had to run for re-election this year.

Tuss, who made his first bid for office this year since he lost in the Democratic Primary for Montana secretary of state in 2000, said he had a very rewarding experience in the race.

“For nine months, we worked our hearts out on this campaign,” he said. “It was one of most challenging things I’ve done, but also one of the most rewarding.

When you knock on 10,000 doors, you get a much better understanding of what people’s hopes and aspsirations are for themselves and their families,” he added.

He said he hadn’t even thought about what he would do if the provisional ballots bring him to a position where he could request a recount.

Under Montana law, if the difference in votes is less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the ballots cast, a recount must be held.

If the difference is from one-quarter of one percent to less than one-half of one percent, the candidate can, within five days, request a recount and put up a bond to cover the cost.

If all 140 provisional ballots count and Tuss picks up 95 votes, he can request a recount. If he picks up 113 votes, a recount should automatically be held.

Tuss said he doubts he can pick up enough to request a recount, adding that the ballots will probably split fairly close to what the ballots already counted went. If it does allow a recount, he will decide then, he said.

He said he will support Tempel if he does end up the victor.

“I wish him nothing but success and will do everything I can to help him in his job in the state Senate,” Tuss said.