District 26 candidate will likely request recount, but won’t ‘cry’ voter fraud

Things quickly took a turn for Karma Fitzgerald, when the Jerome County Elections Director Cy Lootens quickly became aware of a disparity in county totals sent to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:43 PM MST
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Jerome County, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Counties across Idaho are certifying their election results this week, and for one candidate Election Day and the days after have been a roller coaster ride for her, with the vote going from in her favor, to her challengers due to an error. However, she managed to keep her composure and go against national trends when results don’t go the candidates’ way.

With 67% of the vote early on Election Night, it looked as though Democrat Karma Metzler Fitzgerald was going to win the District 26 State House, Seat B race over Republican challenger Jack Nelsen.

“I was thrilled. I love this district. I am a public servant at heart,” Fitzgerald said.

However things quickly took a turn for Fitzgerald, when the Jerome County Elections Director Cy Lootens quickly became aware of a disparity in county totals sent to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, and the unofficial results the state published online.

“The numbers missing were about 700, so I went through a couple of the races that were closer to see if that would flip anything,” said Lootens. " We did some quick math, and we were like this might flip these races (District 26).”

The additional votes did flip a race. The unofficial results showed Nelson to be the projected winner of the District 26 State House, Seat B race by a razor-thin margin of fewer than 90 votes. Fitzgerald said it felt like a “gut punch” when she received the phone call from the Secretary of State’s Office a couple of days after she thought she won the race.

“The Secretary of State’s Office had called while I was on the phone with somebody who was congratulating me. We were making plans on all the things I would be able to do once I was officially sworn in,” said Fitzgerald. “I hung up the phone and checked my voicemail and there’s this message that said there is a problem…I was devastated. I so wanted this job and to be able to serve the people of this district.”

Nelsen said Election Day was a “surreal experience” for him because the initial numbers out of Jerome were very low. He and his team were disappointed in what they believed at the time was a historic low voter turnout.

“After the correction, the results matched up closer to what we had expected. However, it was a shock,” Nelsen said.

With talk of election integrity and fraud continuously circling nationally, the error had Jerome County officials on edge for a brief second.

“When I first heard of it. I’ll admit I was like, ‘oh no, what’s going on?, " said Jerome County chairman Ben Crouch.

Fitzgerald said even though she wants to believe there are “86 votes” votes out there that can flip the election in her favor, voter fraud allegations is not the path she wants to take.

“We need people to know that their vote is precious and it counts,” said Fitzgerald. “Screaming voter fraud right off the bat doesn’t do that. It just adds more doubt into the system.”

Nelsen added “fraud never crossed my mind. The turn of events has increased his faith in the process.”

“The checks on the system worked as they were designed,” Nelsen said.

Jerome County officials appreciate how Fitzgerald has handled the situation, and no one is making allegations about cheating or nefarious intent.

“It’s nice to know that people understand when mistakes happen,” Lootens said.

Crouch added, “I felt horrible for Karma, a very good person, very down to earth.”

Nelsen added Fitzgerald has proven herself to be kind, hard-working, and honest.

“I continue to be impressed by her professionalism,” Nelsen said.

Fitzgerald said she would likely request a recount due to the race’s proximity and error. Jerome County Officials said they fully understand.