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School board recount coming

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | November 30, 2021 1:09 AM

Ballots cast in Coeur d'Alene School District Zone 4 will undergo a formal recount on Thursday following a request from former trustee candidate Lindsey Swingrover.

Only 27 votes separated Swingrover and winning candidate Lesli Bjerke - 2,078 versus 2,105 - in the race for school board trustee on Nov. 2. The narrow margin was not within state guidelines for a free recount but "seemed worth" review to Swingrover and her supporters, the candidate said.

"The day after the election, I had a lot of people talking to me that asked me to do it," she told The Press on Monday.

Idaho code states free recounts only occur when the difference between final voting results is five votes or less than or equal to 0.001% of the total ballots cast for that office — whichever is greater.

Swingrover filed her recount request with the Kootenai County Elections Office on Nov. 23 at about 4:45 p.m., Clerk Jim Brannon said Monday. The review will cover 15 precincts, costing Swingrover $100 per precinct, or $1,500 total.

"If it had been several hundred votes, I wouldn't have gone through with this, but 27 is such a tiny number in the realm of all 4,000 votes that were cast," she said.

Recounts are rare in Kootenai County. Chief Deputy Clerk Jennifer Locke said the last local recount was in 2017.

Jonathan Hall, a Spirit Lake Fire District candidate, requested the recount after he lost by one vote to incumbent Mark Miller, according to a Press article on Nov. 21, 2017.

The 2017 recount found that Hall had, in fact, lost by one vote. Swingrover anticipates her request will have similar results.

"Recounts almost never change the results," she said. "I don't expect it to change very much, but I expect there will be some amount of variation. It's more about wanting to make sure the numbers were right."

She also said the recount is "not malicious at all" toward the elections office or her opponent.

No offense taken, Bjerke said.

"I trust the election process and feel confident in the results," Bjerke told The Press in an emailed statement. "If Ms. Swingrover needs to turn over every stone to have peace (of) mind, then I support her in that."

Per I.C. 34-2303, all ballots cast in the Zone 4 race are in the custody of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Bob Norris will deliver the ballots to the county's election office at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, and the recount will begin at 9 a.m., Locke said.

Brannon said he, Locke, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh, as well as elections and auditor department staff would be present during the recount. Swingrover said she will also attend. Per I.C. 34-2304, "every other person interested may be present" at the recount.

By statute, 5% (213) of the ballots cast for Coeur d'Alene School Board Zone 4 trustee will be tallied by hand and run through the county's electronic tabulating system.

If the hand-tally and electronic tabulation results differ by less than 1% or two votes, the county will recount all 4,252 ballots cast in CDASD Zone 4.

Time of completion is dependent on findings, Brannon said.

"It could be a long process simply because there were quite a number of ballots cast for this race," he said.

According to statute, the county prosecuting attorney is the final authority concerning any question that arises during the recount. If Swingrover wins, the county will return the $1,500 recount cost to her.

"It's not bad for a county to occasionally go through the process for practice and accountability. I would encourage or support any of the close candidates in doing (a recount)," Swingrover said. "If nothing else, it is good practice."

The deadline to request a recount was Nov. 29. Swingrover was the only candidate who filed a request, Brannon said.

Zone 4 wasn't the only race with a narrow margin. Other results within a 50-vote difference include:

• Athol City Council Seats 1, 2 and 3

• Coeur d’Alene City Council Seat 6

• Post Falls School District Zone 4

• Kootenai Joint School District Zones 1, 4 and 5

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