The Idaho Senate has voted unanimously to reject a contest of the November election results from Tom Katsilometes, a Pocatello Republican who lost in November to new Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello. Today’s vote followed a three-hour hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday that also resulted in a unanimous vote to reject the challenge, which claimed violations of the state’s Sunshine Law requirements for campaign finance reporting, along with irregularities in vote-counting and tabulation. The committee determined the claims weren’t founded. “The contestant has not proved that there were any violations, let alone that they were sufficient to affect the result,” said Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.
“This has been an enormously difficult task,” Hill said. “This is our decision, folks. There’s no appeal of this decision; the buck stops here with us. We tried to approach this in an unbiased and nonpartisan way.”
It’s only the third time in Idaho history that the Senate has faced such a challenge; the state constitution puts it, not the courts, in charge of weighing challenges to Senate election results. The last two challenges came in 1981 and 1945.
In November, Nye won the Senate seat with 48.1 percent of the vote. Katsilometes got 44.9 percent of the vote and independent Sierra “Idaho Lorax” Carta took 7 percent. Nye received 536 more votes than Katsilometes; a recount in five precincts selected by Katsilometes confirmed the result.
“Sen. Nye is the choice of the voters in his district, and this committee report confirms the will of the people,” Hill said.