Dear Newsletter Readers,
New information has recently been discovered about the controversial CdA election of 2009, and it sheds even more doubt on the validity of Mike Kennedy’s victory.
I’m sure you are all aware that Cliff Hayes, our new County Clerk, and his staff have spent months scouring the rolls of registered voters, verifying addresses and making certain that voters are listed only for the elections under which they qualify.
Cliff also broke with tradition when he and his staff held a training day for poll workers and paid them for attending. Workers were instructed on new upgrades, security measures and accuracy policies. One of the new rules is that if a potential voter’s name is not pre-printed in the poll book, as is done for folks who’ve been verified as city residents, then the poll workers are to call the Elections Dept. so the voter’s address can be double-checked.
Well an interesting thing happened on election day 2011. Two voters came into a polling place but their names were not listed in the poll book and, upon calling, it was determined that the people did not live within the city limits. The people were shocked; they couldn’t believe it, and they offered the comment that they voted at that same polling place in 2009 and they voted for Mike Kennedy!
Mike Kennedy won his re-election in 2009 by only 5 votes. During the lengthy and sometimes contentious Election Challenge trial that followed, the court decided to invalidate 3 of Mike’s votes. That brought Mike’s margin of victory down to 2. Now, it seems, the election was possibly a tie or, in my opinion, an almost certain win for Jim Brannon and probably other candidates in that election as well. Let me explain my rationale:
As a result of the Elections Dept’s new diligence, “hundreds” of people were turned away from the polls in the CdA city election this year, according to anecdotal reports from poll workers. They were turned away because they don’t live in the city.
The City of CdA has several highly problematic areas. There are some voting precincts, called “split precincts”, that are partly in the city and partly in the county. Folks on one side of a street can vote and on the other side they cannot. But their mailing addresses all say Coeur d’Alene. There are also a few “islands” of county land within the city. These areas are completely surrounded by city, but the folks within the island area are not city residents, they don’t pay city taxes and are not allowed to vote. There again, their mail still comes to a Coeur d’Alene address. So it can be very confusing for both voters and poll workers, and careful oversight is essential.
But back during the Election Challenge of 2009, then Elections Supervisor Deedie Beard stated that her department was “not the Residency Police” and they did not investigate addresses. Yet, as I wrote in my newsletter back then (link below), even the Idaho Fish & Game Dept. is tenacious about tracking residency requirements. And their rules are much more stringent than for voting!
It’s also incredulous to me that, when asked, back in ’09, about the two people who registered to vote from their business address on Industrial Way, Deedie Beard admitted her staff didn’t even question whether that was a residential address.
The system was obviously loosey-goosey during the long term of Dan English as County Clerk and Deedie as Elections Supervisor. But now there’s a new team in place with a firm resolve to follow the law with care and diligence.
The contrast between the two teams is remarkable. Let’s just compare the official 2009 election report to that of 2011. The report is called the “Canvass of the Votes”, presented by those who conducted the election and it must be officially approved by the designated Board of Canvassers, which is set by law. In 2009 that board was the CdA City Council, this year, because the law changed, it was the County Commissioners.
In 2009, the report presented by Dan English and Deedie Beard to the CdA City Council was less than one page long. It showed only the number of voters, number of ballots and percentage of turnout. Testimony was minimal. No problems were listed or discussed, no details divulged. And the CdA City Council asked absolutely no questions, even though the election was the closest in modern memory. They just quickly voted to approve…move on, nothing to see here.
The report of 2011 was a different story entirely. Cliff Hayes and his staff prepared an in-depth report, which they handed out to members of the public, media and officials attending the County Commissioners’ meeting. Cliff publicly explained the report, which included all the tabulations and tallies as well as many audits and cross-references. The report itemized every absentee vote that was disallowed, with detailed reasons for each decision. It included listings of legal voters who voted in the wrong precincts as well as the 24 improper voters who were given city ballots because some poll workers did not adhere to the new rules. (Almost all the improper voters were from one precinct. Those poll workers will almost certainly not be back again.) And then Cliff Hayes answered the questions of the Commissioners. That’s the way it should be.
Cliff and his staff would probably tell you that it wasn’t perfect; there were mistakes made. They’ve already held meetings and compiled a list of suggested improvements to install next time. But we are worlds ahead of where we were in the sloppy election of 2009, and that gives me hope.
The Election Challenge lawsuit of 2009 is not done yet either. The case was appealed to the State Supreme Court where it sits ready for consideration at some point in the near future.
Did Mike Kennedy really win with 2 votes? Did Deanna Goodlander actually get 29 votes to retain her seat? We may never know for sure, but we can be heartened by the professional integrity and dedication of our current Elections Dept. Thank you!
Have a great week --Mary
Mary Souza is a 24 year resident of CdA, local small business owner and former P&Z Commissioner. Her opinions are her own. To sign up for the free weekly newsletter, or access a free archive of past columns, visit www.marysouzacda.com Comments can be sent to email@example.com. Please visit the local issues web site www.OpenCdA.com for more discussion.