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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cusick schools vote falls on last ballot

The Cusick School District levy vote may not be on the same scale as the recent gubernatorial race, but it may end with about as many twists.

The levy was failing, then passing and now – almost two weeks after ballots had to be in the mail – it has failed.

The flip-flopping isn’t the only storyline of the election. School officials have expressed concern with how the ballots were mailed.

On Friday, the Pend Oreille County canvassing board examined the final three votes and decided to count two of them for a final certified tally of 335 yes to 224 no, said county Auditor Carla Heckford. That gave the measure 59.93 percent support; it needed 60 percent to pass. The vote was conducted entirely by mail.

Two more yes votes would have changed the measure’s fate. The district would have maintained current funding levels by raising $325,000 a year for two years.

“The results are we lost, and we’re going to run it again” next month, said Cusick School Board member Larry Cordes.

After ballots were opened on March 8, the measure was failing by 14 votes. By the end of that week, when more votes postmarked by the 8th had been received, it was passing by one vote, 332 to 221.

On Feb. 16, the auditor’s office mailed ballots only to about 680 of the district’s 1,099 registered voters. After the error was discovered, a new batch of ballots was sent to all registered voters on Feb. 24, Heckford said.

Two board members said Friday that they believe the county should pick up the tab for holding a new vote because the error may have cost the district the levy.

“We’ve had several phone calls from people who did not get their ballots until the 7th, and they had to be postmarked on the 8th,” said board member Kelly Driver. “So we’re a little upset.”

Heckford said the error was caused by an equipment failure that prevented some address labels from being printed. The root of the problem has not been discovered.

“We strongly feel that there was ample time for the voters to receive and return the ballots to us by the established deadline of March 8th,” Heckford wrote in a letter to The Spokesman-Review. “…We did it in such a timely manner as to allow for the proper processing of all ballots that were returned to us by the deadline.”

Heckford said she can’t comment about the county paying for a new vote until she has a chance to meet with county commissioners on Monday.

The votes examined by the canvassing board on Friday included three ballots that had signatures that did not exactly match those on voter registration cards. The board decided that two of the ballots had signatures that looked close enough to count.