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Why Castle Rock mayoral race separated by 2 votes could change

For the candidates in Castle Rock's first mayoral race in 30 years, just two votes separate them. It'll take until at least Thursday to have an idea who might be coming out on top.

Castle Rock has not voted for a mayor in more than three decades, so of course, the race is currently being decided by two votes.

"It's just so exciting, you couldn't imagine the sort of thing happening," said mayoral candidate Randy Reed.

"I thought it would be close," said mayoral candidate Jason Gray. "I'm down two votes."

Reed currently leads Gray 10,739 to 10,737 votes. A third candidate, Charles Fletcher III received 4,887 votes. According to Reed, the town hasn't voted on a mayoral candidate since a change in the town charter in 1987.

The results of this race could still change because of a Wednesday night deadline many voters may not know about. County Clerks have until 11:59:59 p.m. eight days following Election Day to allow voters to fix signature issues on their ballot envelopes and to receive overseas and military ballots. Overseas and military ballots are accepted with a postmark prior to Election Day, even if they are received eight days after the election. It's the only exception for postmarks to count.

Then county clerks have until Nov. 15, nine days after the election, to send the Colorado Secretary of State their unofficial results.

In Douglas County, as of Tuesday morning at 10:15, there were 1,013 ballots with either missing signatures or signatures that could not be verified. Being unable to verify a signature means that the ballot machine kicked out the envelop because it couldn't match the signature to the main signature on that voter's record. Then, an election judge looks at the signature compared to the main signature on that voter's record. If there is still a question after that, a Republican and Democrat judge will review the signature on the envelope, along with the voter's full record, which includes signatures from their original voter registration form, voter address changes and previous ballot envelopes.

If both judges agree that the signature is good, the envelope continues, and the ballot will get processed. If the judges split, the voter wins the tie and the ballot will get processed. If the judges agree there is a question, the envelope is set aside, and the voter receives a notice in the mail saying they have up to eight days following the election to return an affidavit swearing that the signature was theirs or adding the signature if it was left off the envelope. Those ballots are then counted on the ninth day after the election, Nov. 15, thus impacting close races.

Merlin Klotz, the Douglas County clerk and recorder, said his office had 231 ballots as of 10:15 a.m. Tuesday morning waiting for the voter to fix their signature. That means there are 231 possible votes for Castle Rock mayor that have not been counted yet.

"Those are people who either forgot to sign the signature or the signature that they put on the ballot didn't match what we have on file," said Klotz.

The candidates can have access to the names of the voters who have signature issues, to try to encourage those voters to fix the problem.

"I have not [tried to get voters to fix their problem ballots]. No one's actually talked to me about that," said Gray. "I would do it right this second. Actually, I want to leave this chair. I did not know that; no one's mentioned it until now and I appreciate it."

"I haven't personally made any contact with any of those uncured signatures," said Reed. "I have volunteers out, they're doing everything they can to make sure every vote gets counted."

"As a candidate, you can go out and you can get Joe Smith to cure and it turns out he's voted for your enemy," said Klotz. "When of the candidates asked me over the weekend, 'How do I know it's mine?' I said, 'Well, you call them, and you ask them.' He says, 'And they're going to tell me the truth?'"

Gray said he does not have any family who did not vote for him, but he's heard from customers at his coffee shop that they should have participated.

"I've had a handful of people come in the store and say, 'Gosh, I wish I would have voted.' It took a little restraint not to cry or scream," said Gray.

The vote count can change this week because of the signature corrections, overseas and military votes and provisional ballots, which are also counted at the same time.

"Any of these ballots that we open here on the 15th could move that race," said Klotz.

"What I really love about it, is this is a story that tells that every vote counts," said Reed. "People might not think that their vote counts, here's a perfect example for you that your vote counts."

If the margin between Reed and Gray is less than half of one percent of the winning vote total, then there will be an automatic recount.

For example, Reed currently leads 10,739 votes. Half of one percent of that is 53 votes. That means an automatic recount would happen because the difference between first and second is less than 53 votes.

An unofficial total will be known on Thursday.

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