Decision on new Middleton vote pushed to next week

kterhune@idahostatesman.comMay 23, 2013 

— The decision on whether to hold a new election to determine the winner of a Middleton school board race will not be made until next week, Canyon County Chief Deputy Clerk Brad Jackson said Friday afternoon.

“We’ve definitely moved the ball down the field, but we’re not yet ready to make an announcement,” he said Friday.

The announcement was planned for May 28 or 29, after the holiday weekend, he said.

Tuesday's zone 2 trustee race ended in a tie between Steve Cluff and Marc Gunning before officials found errors with a number of the votes.

Jackson said a total of 23 voters were given the wrong ballots and cast votes in the wrong zone Tuesday.

Cluff and Gunning originally tied with 101 votes each before they were notified that there was a problem. A third candidate, Brian Fendley, received 18 votes.

Some voters that should have been voting in Cluff, Gunning and Fendley's race received a different ballot. Others who were not eligible to vote in the zone 2 race ended up casting a ballot for it.

The Canyon County Clerk’s Office and the Idaho Secretary of State's Office met Thursday afternoon to come up with a solution, Jackson said.

"We're working on the resolution," Jackson said after the meeting. "There's a lot of pieces to this machine."

Further discussions would be held Friday, he said.

Redoing the election would likely be the best choice, Jackson said earlier.

“In my mind, there is no other good option,” he said. “I think a new, clean, election is the only way to solve it.”

Gunning told the Statesman that he had expected to know which candidate won Tuesday, but would wait for officials to decide how to proceed.

“Certainly one wants to see an election resolved on Election Day, but now we just need to wait,” he said.

He called the delayed end to the race a “unique situation,” but added that he hopes officials will keep the voters of Middleton in mind when they decide how to proceed.

“The voters that voted need to be heard,” he said. “They need to have their votes recognized and counted.”

Cluff had said that he had expected to find out Thursday or Friday how the election would proceed.

Although Cluff, like Gunning, had expected the race to finish by the end of Election Day, he said he had no qualms about the idea of a new election.

“I’d rather have a re-election than a coin toss,” he said.

Cluff said that he was pleased with the turnout, since school board races rarely attract much attention. Although the ballot errors rendered the outcome moot, the original tie in the race should serve as a reminder to Middleton residents to make their voices heard, he said.

“Voting is important,“ he said. “One vote in this case would have made a difference.”

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