Election file

A jar of "I voted" stickers is shown in this Chronicle file photo. 

More than a week after Election Day, the West Yellowstone Town Council race remains up in the air.

The outcome likely hinges on minutiae in state law regarding spelling.

Two seats were on the ballot. Newcomer Travis Watt, the general manager at Three Bear Lodge, will fill one as he received the most votes — 183 — of the six candidates running.

The second seat is uncertain. Based on unofficial election results, incumbent Greg Forsythe, who ran as a write-in candidate, beat newcomer Jeff Mathews by one vote — 126 to 125.

The county’s canvass board, which reviews election results, plans to certify the West Yellowstone results on Monday after consulting with the county attorney’s office on how to count the write-in votes for Forsythe, said Gallatin County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane, a member of the board. The board certified all other races on last week’s ballot on Wednesday.

Candidates had until June 17 to file for local offices for their names to appear on the ballot.

Write-in candidates had until Sept. 3 to file, which Forsythe did. The names of write-in candidates are not printed on the ballot. Instead, voters must write those candidates’ names on a blank line on the ballot.

Forsythe has been a write-in candidate each of the three times he has run for town council “because I believe people should know me and know where I stand to vote for me,” he said. To show their support, he said, voters should have to write his name on the ballot rather than fill in a bubble.

As a write-in candidate, Forsythe completed a form that included a spot for his name and places to list alternative spellings of his name. The elections department records a vote for a write-in candidate every time someone writes the candidate’s name or one of the alternative spellings provided.

Forsythe left the slots for alternative spellings blank, providing just one option — the correct spelling of his name — on the form, MacFarlane said. Before the filing deadline, the Gallatin County Elections Department called Forsythe to ask him if he would like to include alternative spellings. Forsythe emailed the department a list of four alternative spellings.

The elections department then counted votes for all five versions of Forsythe’s name. “Greg Forsythe” received 117 votes, while “Greg Forsyth” received nine votes. No one wrote in any of the other alternative spellings.

If the county doesn’t count the alternative spelling, Forsythe will have lost his reelection bid. If the county counts the alternative spelling, he will have won.

The county does not yet know whether to count the alternative spelling of Forsythe because it was provided in an email rather than on the official form for write-in candidates, MacFarlane said. The canvass board is now working with the county attorney’s office to understand how to treat the votes for Forsythe.

“It seems pretty clear what the intent was of the voters, but we have to make sure we understand state law before we can certify the results,” MacFarlane said.

Even after the canvass on Monday, the town council results may still be uncertain.

Forsythe said he “probably” wouldn’t ask for a recount if it turns out he loses the election.

Mathews did not respond to a request for comment.

Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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