Thousands of ballots still being counted in Arapahoe County due to machine malfunction; could affect 3 tight races

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AURORA | Tens of thousands of ballots are still being counted in Arapahoe County Thursday after a machine that sorts and verifies mail-in ballots broke shortly after midnight election night, Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Matt Crane said Wednesday afternoon.

It’s unclear where the counting process is and when it begins again.

The outstanding ballots could affect the results of the following races: House District 38, Arapahoe County Commissioner District 2, and his own race, Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder, Crane said.

As of Thursday morning, a count posted Wednesday at about 5 p.m. did not show any change in the result of those races.

Currently, Republican incumbent Susan Beckman is leading challenger Chris Kolker by about 541 votes out of about 40,000 cast in the race for the southwestern House District 38. In the Commissioner’s race, the incumbent Sharpe is beating Democratic challenger Don Strickland by about three points.

In his own race for clerk and recorder, Crane leads Democrat Joan Lopez — who has also worked in the Arapahoe County Clerk’s office for nearly 20 years — by 830 votes out of about 230,000 votes cast.

“Particularly my race and the race for HD 38 are very close, so the potential is there,” Crane said. 

He said he sent his employees home shortly after midnight Wednesday, when a machine that sorts and verifies signatures on mail-in ballots “blew a hose.” Ballot counters then returned to their duties around 8:30 a.m. this morning. Crane said vote tallies will be updated on the county website around 1 p.m., and again around 3 p.m.

A spokeswoman for the clerk’s office clarified the machine that malfunctioned does not specifically count votes cast in a race. However, the broken hose, which was repaired early Wednesday morning, did delay the vote counting process by about two hours.

Arapahoe County GOP chair Rich Sokol said he and fellow Republicans are remaining hopeful as election officials count the remainder of ballots.

There are also about 2,000 military and overseas ballots outstanding, which don’t have to be officially tallied until Nov. 14, according to the clerk’s office. Nearly 4,000 ballots have been rejected so far in the county for signature problems, Crane said. Those voters also have until Nov. 14 to rectify those issues.