Boise district hopes 2014 woes are behind it

Problems dogged Boise School District’s 2014 trustees election right through voting day.

Among the issues:

▪  Some ballots and voter signatures were marked with the same number at Koelsch and Roosevelt elementary schools, destroying ballot secrecy by making it possible to see who voted for which candidates.

▪  Voters were allowed to vote at any polling place without a quick way for officials to know if someone had voted twice, leaving open the possibility that people could vote multiple times. An audit later showed no multiple voting.

▪  Ballots identified sitting trustees up for re-election as incumbents, setting off criticism of an unfair advantage and going against district tradition.

▪  At least one candidate complained the district didn’t have enough places for people to vote, so a few weeks before the election, they added polling places — and at least one was at a school near where a challenger lived and had a student enrolled, raising questions about fairness for the other candidates.

When the votes were counted, the three incumbents won in landslides, indicating the mistakes were unlikely to have materially changed the election’s outcome.

After the vote was over, school district officials spent months revamping the system and making internal changes to prevent the problems of the past. The cost for this year’s election? $135,000.

Boise School District is different from nearly every district in the state. Under the 1881 charter that created Boise Schools before Idaho was even a state, the district is responsible for running its own election. In other districts, the county runs those elections (such as the recent recall election in West Ada School District, which was conducted by the Ada County elections office).

Following mistakes with the 2014 election, school officials sought to get out of the election business by handing it over to Ada County elections, said Coby Dennis, district deputy superintendent. Ada County was willing, but the district could not change the date of the election, which is right after Labor Day, to conform with the county’s consolidated election dates. Ada County was reluctant to commit to an election for Boise that would make it hard to run its other elections.

As voters go to the polls Sept. 6, here are some changes that will be in place:

▪  More people watching the election: Poll workers will get extensive training in conducting the vote, which includes not marking ballots. Boise School District also has hired election judges who work Ada County elections to deal with any voting problems that may come up.

▪  No “incumbents”: Ballots won’t indicate incumbent candidates. That’s how the district had traditionally done it and how Ada County does it as well.

▪  Vote where you want: Voters will not have a specified place to vote; they can choose from any of 42 schools and the district office to vote. But as each person votes, their name will be entered on an electronic registry that would show if that person tries to vote at another polling place.

▪  More polling places: In 2014, candidates complained there were not enough polling places in some regions of the district, such as West Boise. The district responded by increasing the number from 33 to 43, to all but about four schools districtwide.

▪  Counting the ballots: Counting used to be done by district employees at the district office. Now the voting boxes will be brought to the district office and tabulated by machinery overseen by Hart InterCivic, the company that sold the tabulating devices to the district.

Questions about the election?

Voters with questions about where or how to vote can email the clerk of the board at jennette.clark

Early voting now underway

Early voting is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday through Sept. 2 at the district office, 8169 W. Victory Road.