Posted 6/22/18 (Fri)
By Cecile Wehrman
Irregularities on the June 12 ballot for city offices in Tioga will result in a special city election.
At least that’s the action expected to be confirmed at a reorganizational meeting of the city commission, to be held Tuesday, June 26.
“We’ll just have to run with the four commissioners until the election,” said Mayor Drake McClelland.
A date for the special election has yet to be set.
It all started with voters being given the wrong instructions on consolidated county ballots. Williams County Auditor Beth Innis said the error originated at the city.
City Auditor Abby Salinas blamed the error on a failure to proof the ballot from the county.
While voters should have been instructed to cast votes for two commissioners and three park board members, the instructions voters received on election day were to cast one vote in the city race and two in the park board race.
Natalie Bugbee was the only filed candidate whose name was listed in either contest. She received 120 votes, and McClelland said her election will stand.
However, the incorrect instructions may have resulted in a different outcome among write-in candidates, since everyone who voted for Bugbee should also have had an opportunity to enter the name of a write-in candidate. A total of only 42 write-in votes were cast among nine names.
Initially, Salinas was only aware of the incorrect instructions in the city commission race; later, it was determined the outcome of the park board race may also have been different if voters knew they could choose three candidates.
Nikki Davidson and Tara Mosley, receiving 46 votes and 22 votes, respectively, were the clear favorites, and their elections will also stand, McClelland said.
Thirty-seven other names received votes for park board, with most receiving between one and three votes each.
One of the delays in resolving what would happen as a result of the instructional error was waiting for a hand count of write-in ballots cast.
All that city officials knew until Wednesday was the total number of write-in votes cast -- not how they were distributed.
Once counted, Tim Christenson emerged as the top write-in for the city commission, receiving 30 votes -- 10 times more than the number received for any other name.
Christenson also tied for third place for a park board seat, with him and Kassie Rose each receiving five votes.
Upon hearing those results, McClelland said he was advised by Innis that the city had three options in rectifying the instructional error: appoint the top commission write-in, advertise for commission candidates or hold a special election.
McClelland then verified Christenson’s willingness to accept the post and, believing he had the authority to do so, had the auditor issue an agenda listing Christenson’s appointment on the agenda for the June 26 meeting.
Within hours, however, officials realized the park board instructions were also wrong, and given that, said McClelland, the special election emerged as the best way to rectify both errors.
Rather than appoint both a commissioner and a park board member, each of whom would have to run again in two years, the ballot will contain one four-year term on the commission and one on the park board.
Preventing future mistakes
Whoever was at fault for the errors, McClelland said, in the future, the city will make sure all ballots are proofed by more than one person.
But he also said the information the city got from the park board was wrong.
By conducting the special election, said Innis, the number of posts up for re-election in future cycles will be consistent. That means that, in 2022, there should once again be two city commissioners and three park board seats expiring, but “it’s up to them” to keep track of it.
“I don’t tell them what positions are up,” Innis added.
The cost of conducting a special election will include publication of the required notices and paper ballots that can be marked by hand, along with pay for officials to conduct the election.