Eloy Ortega, unsuccessful candidate for County Commission District I, right, and his son, Adrian, attend the special County Commission meeting, Friday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
County election officials said Friday that human error is to blame for twice calling a race between two candidates for County Commission a tie, when no deadlock existed. County Clerk Rhoda Coakley announced during a special County Commission meeting that Republican candidate James Duffey defeated Democrat Eloy Ortega in the race for County Commission in District 1. Initial results indicated the two candidates were in a dead heat on Tuesday evening, and again on Wednesday after four additional ballots put the two into another tie, officials said.
However, Ortega originally defeated Duffey 1,002 to 1,001 on Election Day and Duffey later won 1,005 to 1,003 after additional hand-tallied ballots were discovered Wednesday, Coakley said. â€œThe data entry guy made a mistake,â€ she said.
â€œHe just hit the wrong number.â€ Two military ballots in District 1 are still outstanding and have the potential to change the course of the race, however, they must be postmarked no later than Nov. 2. Despite Coakley reminding officials that election results are unofficial until proper time is given to ensure all the numbers are accurate, Commissioner Michael Trujillo expressed his disapproval over the course of events. â€œIt didnâ€™t just change Tuesday and (Friday). … It changed all week,â€ Trujillo said during the meeting. â€œIt shouldnâ€™t be assumed. … The county clerk is responsible not to assume.â€
Ortega announced during the meeting that he plans to file a petition in District Court in the near future asking a judge for a recount. He commented that while he understands that people make mistakes, he â€œhas some concernsâ€ and called it the responsibility of the clerk to report to the public immediately any errors made by her office.
Duffey called the campaign and events following election day a â€œroller coaster.â€ Commissioner Richard Taylor used his time for remarks to express his content with both candidates, saying â€œitâ€™s interesting (that) the two candidates who ran a positive campaignâ€ are in such a situation.
â€œBoth of these candidates, I think, are fine gentlemen,â€ he said. â€œI respect that.â€ Citing the errors, he also questioned whether the county could pay for some of the court fees involved with filing the recount petition. â€œI think that would be very proper to look at,â€ he said. â€œWe want nothing more than a fair (and) legitimate election count.â€
The County Commission is slated to meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. to canvass the general election. Commissioners had to delay a vote on the canvass due to the Secretary of Stateâ€™s office error in mailing military ballots. Following the canvass, Ortega says he expects to file a petition with the court, adding that he did not think he would ask the county to pay for the fees.