Idaho legislator who lost the closest legislative primary election will request recount

An Idaho legislator who lost his primary election race by six votes earlier this month says he will seek a recount of the votes in his bid to be-elected to the Idaho House of Representatives.

Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, will submit a letter to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office formally requesting the recount after the State Board of Canvassers certify election results by Wednesday’s deadline, Syme told the Idaho Capital Sun. 

Syme said he is requesting the recount because the results were so close, but he will accept the results of the recount no matter what the outcome is.

“I am good with it either way,” Syme said. “Really and truly if it does come out the same, then that is just — I don’t know if bellwether is the right word — but that is proof our elections are sound, they are secure and we need to stop this big lie that is going around that our elections aren’t secure.”

Syme said he has already requested a recount with the Attorney General’s Office, but was advised to resubmit it after election results are certified to ensure his request complies with a section of state law that allows a recount to be requested “within 20 days of the canvass of such election.”

“What I can tell you is the request for the recount has to go through the Attorney General’s Office, then they will contact the county sheriffs and have them sequester all the ballots,” Syme said.  

Complete but unofficial election results released by the state show that Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, defeated Syme by 4,636 to 4,630, a difference of six votes. The unofficial election results will become official following this week’s canvass and certification, after which Syme will submit his recount request. That race, a Republican primary election for District 9’s Seat B in the Idaho House, was the closest legislative primary election result in the state this year.

Boyle and Syme are incumbent legislators who used to represent separate, neighboring legislative districts. But due to the 2021 redistricting process that involved redrawing Idaho’s political boundaries based on population, Syme and Boyle were drafted into the same district and decided to run against each other rather than retire. 

Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said the recount will be free for Syme, since the margin between the two candidates was less than .1%. State election results showed Boyle won 50.03% of the votes cast, while Syme won 49.97%. Under Idaho law, the state will pay for the recount because the margin was so small. 

No other Idaho legislative or statewide primary election result was within the .1% margin or five vote difference that qualifies for a free recount in Idaho law

However, candidates who lose by a larger margin than that may still request a recount if they are willing to pay for it, Houck said. The cost for such a recount is $100 per precinct, Houck said. 

In the District 34 Republican primary election for District 34’s House Seat B, former Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, defeated incumbent Rep. Ron Nate, also R-Rexburg, by 36 votes, 2,641 to 2,605. Nate could not be reached for comment. Houck said he has heard a recount will also be requested in that District 34 race. 

If Nate does request a recount, he could choose whether to pay to have one, some or all of the precincts’ results recounted. 

What happens with a recount of Idaho legislative primary election results?

After Syme requests the recount, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden will order the county sheriffs to sequester the ballots, and issue an order for the recount. The order will specify the time and place for the recount, which must be conducted no more than 10 days after the order for the recount was issued, according to Idaho law. Both candidates, or their representatives, as well as the public will be allowed to witness the recount. State law stipulates that the attorney general will be the final authority on any questions raised during the recount.

As for the recount itself, under Idaho law, a random selection of ballots will be tallied by hand and the same ballots will also be tabulated using an electronic ballot tabulating system. If the margin of difference between the two counts is .25% or less, then all of the remaining ballots in the recount will be tabulated using the electronic ballot tabulation system. If the difference is more than .25%, all of the ballots will be counted by hand. 

Under state law, a candidate would have 24 hours to appeal the results of a recall. 

District 9, where Boyle and Syme’s race took place, covers three counties — a portion of Canyon County and all of Washington and Payette counties. Syme wants to observe the recount and would like the recounts in the three counties to take place at separate times.

“I want to be there for it,” Syme said.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: [email protected]. Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.

Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun

Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News.

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