LAS CRUCES – The House District 37 race between Republican incumbent Terry McMillan and Democratic challenger Joanne Ferrary swung from extremely close to tied to a one-vote margin Friday after previously uncounted absentee, provisional and in-lieu of ballots were tallied Friday.
Ferrary led by the slimmest of leads – one vote – Friday evening, after another ballot containing a vote for the Democrat was located when Democratic and Republican observers had already left believing the race was tied.
State election officials said a recount will be triggered automatically because the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent of the total ballots cast. The State Canvassing Board, which meets Nov. 27, is expected to formally order the recount, and the recount is expected to start Dec. 3.
Both Ferrary, a longtime anti-DWI advocate, and McMillan, a doctor, had 6,246 votes, according to an unofficial count, when both sides believed the count had been completed about 4:30 p.m.
But shortly after 6 p.m., Bobbi Shearer, the state Bureau of Elections director, reported that two more provisional ballots were located, one without a vote cast for the race and the other with a vote for Ferrary.
On election night, county officials reported Ferrary had a 12-vote lead. That lead shrank to seven after previously uncounted absentee ballots were found in a locker in the clerk’s office vault and the new results were tabulated late Thursday night, said County Clerk Lynn Ellins. In the batch of absentee ballots counted Thursday, Ferrary picked up 29 more votes and McMillan 34.
Prior to Ferrary taking a one-vote lead Friday evening, both Ferrary and McMillan, knowing that a recount must occur before the results are final, sounded cautiously optimistic.
“It’s been a nice roller coaster,” Ferrary quipped, “but at least we . . . have a chance to win.”
McMillan said he was hopeful and optimistic about his chances, but not necessarily confident.
“We feel pretty good about it. Nobody wants to be involved in a race that’s so close,” said McMillan. “At this point, it’s a dead tie, and that’s disconcerting.”
According to state law, if the race ends up in a tie after the recount, the outcome will be determined by “lot,” for instance the flip of a coin, in a manner determined by a five-member committee that includes the two candidates.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal