ALTAMONT, Tenn. — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais on Monday held on to his slender 35-vote margin over GOP primary challenger Jim Tracy after Grundy County Election Commission members sorted through provisional ballots in a contest that's been too close to call.
In the end, commissioners accepted two provisional ballots from voters who did not have their government-issued photo identification with them when they sought to vote in last Thursday's election but were able to present them by Monday's close-of-business deadline on Monday.
The scandal-plagued DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician, and Tracy, a state senator from Shelbyville, each received one additional vote and thus DesJarlais' razor thin lead did not change although the totals in the 4th Congressional District primary increased by two.
Grundy County election commissioners are forwarding three additional provisional ballots to state officials to determine whether the voters, who did not show up in the local voter database, may have been enrolled by the state Department of Transportation's sign up program.
Representatives of the DesJarlais and Tracy campaign stood by as officials sorted through the ballots. There were a total of 14 but not all voted in the Republican congressional primary and four who did not present the required ID by the deadline, the close of business on Monday.
The Tracy campaign estimates there are 105 provisional ballots in the sprawling district, which includes all or parts of 16 East and Middle Tennessee counties.
But it's not known how many of these voted in the Republican congressional primary, Democratic primary or skipped the congressional race altogether in a race that included party primaries for governor, U.S. Senate, the state Supreme Court, Legislature and general elections for county offices.
There is no official figure yet on the number of ballots to be added to the overall count from Thursday's election. But a county-by-county rundown by The Associated Press in DesJarlais' district indicated no more than a few dozen provisional ballots in the mix -- suggesting that challenger Tracy would need the lion's share of the votes to overcome the current 35-vote gap, according to unofficial results.
Voters who cast ballots in the race had until the close of the business day Monday to present proper identification so their votes count. Election officials also said it could take days to research whether some voters who cast provisional ballots were legitimately registered in spite of not being listed as eligible to vote.
Both DesJarlais and Tracy have declared themselves the winner of the primary, and both have hired attorneys for possible recount challenges.
The results of the election have to be certified by Aug. 25. The losing candidate will have up to five days to file a challenge, said Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Tennessee Secretary of State.
"(The Republican State Executive Committee) would decide whether or not to hear the challenge, and if they were to hear the challenge they would decide what the appropriate action to take would be," said Fontenay.
Staff writer Andy Sher contributed to this report from Grundy County.
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