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Republican’s lead in State Board of Education race narrows, possible recount looms

Rebecca McClellan, a candidate for the State Board of Education, greets a participant at a forum in Aurora.
Rebecca McClellan, a candidate for the State Board of Education, greets a participant at a forum in Aurora.
Nicholas Garcia

The outcome of a high-stakes race to determine partisan control of the Colorado State Board of Education will not be known until early next week at the earliest — and the numbers are so close, an automatic recount looms as a strong possibility.

Over the past two days, incumbent Republican Debora Scheffel’s early lead over Democratic Rebecca McClellan has narrowed. As of Friday morning, Scheffel led just by just 294 voters out of 349,470 ballots counted, according to the Secretary of State.

That is close enough to trigger a recount under state law.

However, an undisclosed number of ballots still must be counted in the counties that make up the congressional district Scheffel currently represents on the state board. The highly competitive 6th Congressional District includes portions of Arapahoe and Adams counties, as well as a small portion of Douglas County.

An Adams County spokeswoman said that ballots there were not being counted on Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday, and that the next returns would be released “early next week.” Arapahoe County election workers continued to count ballots on Friday, and an update was expected by late afternoon, a spokeswoman said.

As of Thursday morning, about 8,000 ballots in Arapahoe County and about 9,000 in Adams County still had to be counted, officials said at the time. It was not immediately clear Friday how many ballots are outstanding.

Also, not all those outstanding ballots have the state board race on the ballot. Some voters in those counties live in other congressional districts. For example, voters in Adams could live in either the 4th, 6th or 7th district.

The Scheffel-McClellan contest is far tighter than the headline matchup in the 6th Congressional District that pit incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman against Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll. Coffman won re-election by 9 percentage points. The current margin separating Scheffel and McClellan is less than 1 percent.

For a recount to happen, the difference between the candidates must be less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the winner’s total vote count, according to state law. The current count is within that.

“I think this race is a better reflection of the mix in the district,” McClellan, who raised more money than Scheffel and had the support of a political committee tied to the nonprofit Democrats for Education Reform, said earlier this week.

About 3,000 votes in Douglas County have also not been counted. But those votes won’t be included in the county’s total until after Nov. 16, said Merlin Klotz, Douglas County’s clerk. Those ballots have been set aside because of irregularities. Voters have eight days to address those irregularities in order for their vote to be counted.

Klotz said he doubted those 3,000 ballots could sway the race because of how few Douglas County voters live in the 6th district.

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