Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Election complaint still not over

Staff Writer | November 11, 2021 1:08 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — Questions about possible illegal electioneering in last week's local elections have still not been answered.

After Dave Eubanks, a former Coeur d'Alene school board member, said last week that he witnessed illegal activity at Precinct 19 in Hayden, County Clerk Jim Brannon condemned the poll worker's actions and requested anyone who witnessed wrongdoing at the polls file a formal complaint.

As of Wednesday night, Brannon had not been heard from on the issue.

On Tuesday, Elections Manager Asa Gray presented a canvas of the Nov. 2 local election to Kootenai County Commissioners for approval. Under Idaho Code Chapter 34, election personnel must re-count paper ballots to verify voter identity, eligibility and intent. 

Gray said he has received "a couple of emails regarding the presence of cheat sheets, flyers or sample ballots."

Per Idaho Code 18-2318, on the day of any election, no person inside or within 100 feet of a polling place can "do any electioneering." By statute, electioneering includes the circulation of "cards or handbills of any kind." 

Anyone found to be electioneering can be punished with a fine of up to $1,000 and arrested.

Commissioner Chris Fillios said Tuesday that he heard people were leaving sample ballots in polling places, particularly churches. Nearly half of the county's polling places — 32 of 70 — are in religious buildings. 

The presence of loose handbills was a recurring problem, Gray acknowledged. 

"Oftentimes, people take their cheat sheet or voter guide with them when they go to vote. That's great … As long as they're not handing it out," he said. "Our poll workers do diligently check those, but they obviously can't stand over the voter every minute of the day and make sure no one left a flyer."

Last week, Eubanks, a Hayden resident, told The Press he witnessed a Precinct 19 poll worker offering a voter anti-critical race theory literature after handing them a ballot.

Since Monday morning, The Press has made numerous efforts to contact Brannon for an update on the case, but the county's chief election official has not responded. Eubanks isn't letting go.

"If that woman had been handing out literature in support of Black Lives Matter, she would have been shut down in a second," Eubanks said Wednesday. "But the fact that she was handing out CRT stuff, I think people have winked at it.

"To have people working in our polling places who are distributing anything at all like that undermines the integrity of our elections, and someone needs to speak up and say something."

Eubanks told The Press he wants the poll worker prosecuted. 

Last week when they learned from the newspaper of Eubanks' experience, Brannon and Chief Deputy Clerk Jennifer Locke encouraged voters to inform poll judges and the elections office "right away" if they see possible electioneering. 

Gray echoed that warning.

"We want to avoid anything that could particularly affect the perspective of a fair and neutral polling site," Gray said. "Anything regarding that we want to know about right away so we can handle it." 

When he read The Press on Saturday, Coeur d'Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer contacted Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh on behalf of Eubanks, inquiring about the process of filing a formal complaint. Since the complaint is a criminal offense, McHugh suggested Eubanks file his statement with Sheriff Bob Norris, Widmyer said Wednesday. 

On Monday, Hayden Mayor Steve Griffitts also expressed concern but told The Press he has "complete confidence" in Brannon and his ability "to lead those responsible for the elections."

"Elections are sacred, and we're grateful for the volunteers that allow us the opportunity to freely elect our leaders," Griffitts said. "We want to make sure that we keep integrity for our elections." 

Gray said the elections office gave volunteers "an etiquette sheet" to help them maneuver through "people who maybe want to start political conversations that our poll workers should not be engaging in."

"(Poll workers) are not to engage in political conversations or anything of any political or partisan nature because that is not their job," he said. 

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