By Alan Sorensen
Glenn Huestis still wears the badge in Blaine County.
Huestis term as sheriff was challenged by former Sheriff Theron Pete Paulsen, who lost a write-in campaign to retain his job in last Novembers general election.
In a written decision issued this morning, 12th Judicial district Court Judge John Warner ruled against Paulsens argument that write-in ballots bearing only his last name should have been counted.
Warner was asked to rule on the validity of 37 last-name-only write-in ballots for incumbent candidate Paulsen.
Blaine County Commissioners threw those ballots out because they said state law required identification beyond just a last name. As a result, former Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis was declared the winner by a margin of 19 votes, 1,219 to 1,200.
Paulsen, who lost the June 1998 Democratic primary to Huestis, mounted the general election write-in campaign in hopes of remaining sheriff.
Warner ruled that the 37 ballots Paulsen said would have won him the election were invalid because they contained only the last name Paulsen or Paulson. In his six-page ruling, Warner said that the Montana Legislature and Supreme Court established and upheld a strict and technical standard that is not subject to interpretation.
Warner also found that the election administrator went as far beyond her sworn duties as she reasonably could to acquaint Blaine County voters with the write-in laws. Warner said that any further action by the election judges, such as posting the declaration, could be considered electioneering by encouraging votes for a write-in candidate.
Havre lawyer Dan Boucher, representing Huestis in the case, said the courts ruling was clearly mandated by the facts and law.
However, Sheriff Huestis is relieved the matter is concluded, Boucher said, and he appreciates the strong support from the community during this process.
Attempts to reach Paulsen for comment before The Daily News went to press were unsuccessful.