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Final vote tallies mirror early ones

The final numbers are in on Idaho’s May 20 primary election, and they’re virtually unchanged from the unofficial election-night totals.

Results certified by the state Board of Canvassers, which includes Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, state Controller Brandon Woolf and state Treasurer Ron Crane, show just a 28-vote difference in the total number of votes cast for governor, coming in at 180,948, down just a hair from the election-night total of 180,976. No results changed.

Ysursa said he can remember when there were much bigger swings when the final, official numbers were tallied. Three decades ago, he had to call a legislative candidate to let him know that one county’s results had shifted by 500 votes because of a hand-written 3 that looked like an 8, moving that candidate from winner to loser.

“Like everything else, election-night reporting has become more accurate, more sophisticated,” Ysursa said. “That’s the way we want it. It makes the canvass pretty anti-climactic.” He added, “I commend the county clerks for their diligence. They do a pretty good job.”

One big source of swings long in the past was manual entry of the tallies of paper ballots. “It was just call in and write down,” Ysursa said. Now, most voting systems are automated, though 14 of Idaho’s 44 counties, among the smallest ones, still use paper ballots.

Woodings rips Denney

Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, is ripping her GOP opponent in the secretary of state’s race, Lawerence Denney, for hiring a private attorney with public funds. The lawyer in question represented the Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee, after Denney and co-chair Sen. Chuck Winder didn’t like the legal advice they got from the Idaho attorney general’s office on the chances for getting federal public lands transferred to the state.

“Without consulting other committee members, Winder and Denney hired a private attorney who will be paid $41,000 in taxpayer dollars,” Woodings wrote in an op-ed piece sent to the state’s newspapers. “The other committee members learned of this decision only after Sen. Winder disclosed the hiring to Montana legislators.

“Lawerence Denney has a history of spending public dollars on private lawyers when he’s looking for a specific outcome,” Woodings wrote. “Now, with the federal lands committee, we again have Denney using taxpayer dollars to shop around for an attorney who will give him the opinion he wants.”

Denney, R-Midvale, is the former speaker of the House; he was deposed as speaker in 2012, and became chairman of the House Resources Committee and co-chair of the land transfer panel. He didn’t respond to calls and emails seeking comment on Woodings’ statements.

Raises at the top

Idaho’s state Board of Education voted unanimously last week to give 5 percent pay raises to the presidents of Boise State University and Idaho State University, a 3 percent raise for the head of Lewis-Clark State College, and a 7.2 percent raise for the executive director of the office of the state board. The raises followed performance reviews for each of the top positions; the University of Idaho wasn’t included because new UI President Chuck Staben just started work on March 1.

With the raises – all effective June 8 – BSU President Bob Kustra’s salary will rise to $371,104; ISU President Arthur Vailas’ to $357,029; LCSC President Tony Fernandez’s to $176,011; and state board Executive Director Mike Rush’s to $129,938.

Refund checks expiring

More than 4,000 uncashed state tax refund checks are about to expire on June 27, and the state Tax Commission is urging the taxpayers involved to get on it. After the expiration date, the refunds – which total more than $1 million – will become unclaimed property. At that point, the owners would have to file a claims request through the state Treasurer’s Office to get the money.

The checks in question were issued from July 2012 to June 2013. The Tax Commission says it sent letters to the taxpayers who got the checks; some will need to be reissued if they’re more than a year old. Those who’ve lost their checks can request a replacement.

Heroics honored

Three Idaho firefighters will be awarded the Idaho Medal of Honor on Saturday for heroics including swimming into Lake Pend Oreille and repeatedly diving down, with no equipment, to retrieve a trapped car accident victim. The three being honored are Capt. Stuart Eigler, a volunteer with the Sam Owen Fire District who made the lake dive last Aug. 11; Capt. Jeff Piazza of the Clark Fork Fire Rescue Department, who crawled under a burning mobile home and rescued two severely burned dogs moments before the floor collapsed; and firefighter John Ryan O’Hearn of the Pocatello Fire Department, who rescued a man in a wheelchair from a burning home.

Follow Betsy Z. Russell on the Eye on Boise blog at She can be reached at, (208) 336-2854.