Challenged Ballots May Defeat $96 Million Bond



According to an email sent late Tuesday (Nov. 24, 2015) by Attorney Erick Kaardal to the members of the ISD 833 referendum Question 2 recount Canvassing Board, an “obvious error” was committed by the Washington County election judges during last Friday’s recount, which is the responsibility of the the Canvassing Board to correct.  The letter states the error committed by the election judges was the failure to count 18 of the 19 challenged ballots as “no” votes.  If the election judges had counted those ballots as “no” votes, the ballot question would fail to pass due to a tie vote: 6,840 votes in favor and 6,840 votes against (Minnesota Statute §204C.34).

Kaardal, representing Susan Richardson and Andrea Mayer-Bruestle, requests that the Canvassing Board:

…vote to follow the procedures of Minnesota Statute § 204C which provides a procedure to correct obvious errors – such as not counting ballots #2 through #19 as ‘no’ votes – which, in turn, requires notice to the District Court and affected parties, a public inspection of the ballots and a public report

Kaardal cites the Minnesota Statutes that detail the procedures the canvassing board should follow in order to correct the election judges’ error, along with a ballot-by-ballot explanation of the statutes under which the challenged ballots should have been counted as “no” votes.  He also asks to address the canvassing board at the November 25, 2015 meeting.

This is another development in an election process already stretching on weeks after the November 3 vote.  South Washington County District 833 had three referendum questions on the ballot; Question 1 (a 10 year, $10.3/million/year operating levy) passed, Question 3 ($46.5 million bond for building additions) received a majority of “no” votes, and Question 2 ($96 million bond primarily for a new $77 million middle school and renovations to the “old” Oltman Middle School for Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion elementary school as well as additions to the district’s three other middle schools) narrowly passed by 19 votes.  A request for recount petition was submitted by Mike Fouts on November 13, only to be rejected by the district due to missing information.  A second recount request petition with 63 signatures was submitted by Bev Moreland on November 18 and was accepted by the district.  The recount took place at the Washington County Government Center at 9am on November 20.

According to “no” ballot observers and community members, something seemed odd during the recount: election judges accepted one challenged ballot was a “yes” vote and two others as “no” votes, then the election judges determined that “challenged” ballots would go to the Canvassing Board meeting on Wed., Nov. 25, 2015, rather than counting the challenged ballots as “no” votes at the time of the recount.

After the recount, those involved on the “no” side of the recount had a discussion.  According to Susan Richardson, the decision was made to reach out to Erick Kaardal who specializes in these types of actions. She said, “Clearly there is a dispute of valid ballots cast in this election,” and, “This case is unprecedented in the state of Minnesota.”

The Canvassing Board is made up of two ISD 833 school board members, the Clerk of the City of Woodbury, the Washington County Court Administrator and the Washington County Auditor.  The board will meet at 8am Wed., November 25th, at the South Washington County School District 833 District Service Center, 7362 East Point Douglas Rd S, Cottage Grove, Minnesota.


Updated 3:37pm 12/2/2015