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What’s next in La Plata County commissioner race that is too close to call?

114 votes separate Jack Turner and Marsha Porter-Norton
Marsha Porter Norton and Jack Turner

Election season is going to extend just a little longer for the two candidates running for La Plata County commissioner in District 2, which has pit longtime locals Marsha Porter-Norton and Jack Turner against each other.

At last count, Porter-Norton received 16,556 votes and Turner had 16,442, a difference of 114 votes.

La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker said Wednesday afternoon the race is too close to call, and several factors are at play before a winner can be announced.

First, there are about 270 ballots that either have no signatures, or the person failed to provide a form of ID upon registering to vote, which have to be fixed in what’s known as the “curing process.”

Notices will be sent by mail, and also email if possible, notifying the voter of their incorrect ballot, Parker said. This process is expected to last at least until Nov. 12.

Marsha Porter-Norton, candidate for La Plata County commissioner in District 2, campaigning Tuesday at the intersection of College Drive and Camino del Rio.

There is also one caveat, Parker said: The “cure list” is public record, and candidates typically request it so they can call voters and encourage them to fix their ballots.

Parker said that in the past, voters have expressed they felt the process was an invasion of privacy when contacted by candidates. But, it should be noted, candidates cannot see which way someone voted.

A similar situation played out in the 2016 race for county commissioner when Democratic challenger Clyde Church beat incumbent Republican Brad Blake by just 23 votes.

“If I was a candidate, I’d do the same thing,” Parker said. “It makes sense to contact voters because they need every vote they can get right now.”

Both Porter-Norton and Turner requested the list, Parker said.

Jack Turner, independent candidate for La Plata County Commissioner in District 2, campaigning around Durango on Tuesday.

Turner, when contacted Wednesday, said he intends to reach out to everyone on the cure list.

“We’ll reach out to every-single person we can,” he said.

Porter-Norton did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

Also at play, Parker said, are pending military and overseas voters, who are allowed to cast a ballot on Election Day, which then can be received in an eight-day period after the election.

Parker said 497 ballots were sent to military and overseas voters. About 180 haven’t been sent back. While it’s impossible to say whether those people voted, the Clerk’s Office must wait the eight days from Election Day.

The Veterans Day holiday on Wednesday pushes the deadline back a day to Nov. 12.

One last factor, Parker said, are the votes that could trickle in from across the state as part of a Colorado law that allows voters to drop off ballots in any county’s drop-box location.

So, for example, students in college in Denver or people working temporarily in another part of the state who are registered La Plata County voters can drop off their ballots in a different county.

Parker has no idea how many, or if any, are expected to trickle in.

But all those factors make calling the race for District 2 too premature, Parker said.

“There’s enough there that I feel ... I shouldn’t call the election,” she said.

As it stands, the margin that Porter-Norton is ahead does not trigger a recount. That could change, however, if the outstanding ballots further reduce the margin of votes between the two candidates, Parker said.

In Colorado, a margin of 0.005 triggers a recount. The race for District 2 currently has a margin of 0.69, according to Parker.

In the race for District 2, the winner will replace outgoing Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, who is term-limited.


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