CONFIRMED: Leslie Bjerke WINS Coeur d’Alene School Board Zone 4 Seat
Last Wednesday, November 23rd, Lindsey Swingrover filed her paperwork to request a recount of the CDA School District Zone 4 Board Seat. As a reminder, Swingrover lost the November 3 race to Lesli Bjerke by a scant 27 votes. If the race had been within 5 votes, there would have been an automatic recount but if the spread was wider then either candidate can request a recount within 20 days of the canvass.
Swingrover told the CDA Press that she doesn’t expect [the results] to change very much but she does expect a bit of variation from the original count.
“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 in the article, “If nothing else, it is good practice.”
The recount started at 9:00am on Thursday, December 2 and by 5:00pm the recount was finished; it has been confirmed that not only did Lesli Bjerke win the race against Lindsey Swingrover, but the spread was EXACTLY the same as the original election night: 27 votes.
As of this post the CDA Press has not published the results either in its printed paper or on it's social media.
Cost of Recount
$100 for each precinct recounted.
This cost is ONLY for the day of the recount; it does not include the 6 days of prep work that was done to get ready for the recount. This cost is the salaries for all county employees who had to be involved in the recount including: Clerk, Chief Deputy Clerk, Prosecutor, directors/managers within the Clerk’s and Auditor’s offices. Does not include the cost of the director from the Secretary of State’s office.
I had the great opportunity to be present at the recount and if you want the play-by-play head over to my Telegram channel where the fun starts here. I do have the day’s process that I’m going to list out below, but overall the day was a fascinating day of learning and I have even greater respect for the Clerk and his entire team at the Election’s office. Bravo to the entire group.
All recount statutes are in Idaho Code 34-2301 thru 34-2313.
Once the applicant requests a recount multiple steps happen:
The applicant pays $100 per precinct (in this case there were 15 precincts), and
The Clerk calls the Sheriff who impounds ALL ballots from the election in question. The Sheriff seals all boxes (which have been in a locked cage in a locked room since election day) and impounds the boxes into the Sheriff’s Department evidence locker.
Each candidate can make a list of people to represent them although only one person for each candidate can be in the sorting and counting rooms at any given time. Anyone else who would like to watch the recount can do so through the livestream at the Clerk’s office or on YouTube. The YouTube link is created for every election, so the link that worked for November 3rd livestream was not the same one as the link from today. The new link can always be found on the County Elections website.
Once the process begins at 9am, the ballots are handled in the same order as on election day: early voting, absentee, and day-of precincts.
For Election Day, both early voting ballots and absentee ballots were grouped and counted based on the day they were received into the Elections office. For the recount they were still grouped by the day they were received, however the CDA school board zone 4 ballots were separated from the rest.
The Elections Manager, Asa Gray, was in charge of handling the boxes to give to the sorting/counting teams. He ensured that everyone knew which box was empty before giving it to the teams and before he removed boxes from the tables. The ballot boxes were taped in evidence tape from when they were impounded by the Sheriff, and the tape was not cut until Asa was ready to give a team a box to sort.
Chief Deputy Clerk Jennifer Locke had the report showing exactly how many zone 4 ballots were originally counted in each day. One team of 2 sorted the day’s worth of ballots, and then another team of 2 counted the zone 4 ballots that were found in that sort. If the number didn’t match the number that Jennifer had, the team went back through the sorted pile of ballots from the day in question to see if one was overlooked.
The team did not move on to sorting another day’s worth of ballots until the previous group was sorted, the zone 4 ballots were counted, and that number matched the number that Jennifer Locke had in her report.
The day-of ballots were not sorted to remove only the zone 4 ballots, it was just easier and quicker to count the entire precinct. There were only 15 precincts that had to be recounted.
All sorting and counting up to this point was by hand and in a locked room. Everyone had to sign in and sign out upon entering and exiting the room. No cell phones, food, or liquids were allowed into the room. Only red pens were allowed to be used in the room.
Idaho Code allows the recount to be done on the automatic tabulation machines, however it has to go through strenuous logic and accuracy before they can be used.
Machine goes through same logic and accuracy test as it did on election day. The sample ballots used on election day are the same sample used on recount day. These original sample ballots were verified by a county commissioner – in this case it was Commissioner Chris Fillios – as they are before every election day. For Recount Day that verification is by County Prosecutor Barry McHugh.
Once that accuracy testing is matching and done, the machine is zeroed out and those reports confirming the zeros are passed around to the representatives.
A group of live ballots will then be checked for accuracy through the machine. These ballots are to be the 5% of the total amount of ballots cast in the race (which equals to 213) that are statutorily required to be checked before the recount can begin.
Two tables were set up in the sorting room right next to each other: one for Swingrover and one for Bjerke. Swingrover’s table had an empty basket with her name on it, a chair for her representative, and a chair for the tabulator counting the votes. Swingrover’s table was facing Bjerke’s table which was set up the exact same way. Jennifer Locke was sitting in between each table to be able to show each representative all 213 ballots one by one.
Ballots from precinct 66 were used, only because that was the first precinct in the box of ballots. (Meaning it was one of the last precincts counted on election night.)
We were set to use the top 213 ballots from precinct 66 but we had to hand count them, confirm the votes, and verify the total before we could use them as a sample in the machine.
This hand count process took about an hour:
Asa Gray counted out 213 ballots from precinct 66. All the other ballots were set aside back in the box.
One at a time he handed a ballot to Clerk Brannon who read the vote out loud.
Brannon gave the ballot to Barry McHugh who confirmed the vote also read it out loud.
McHugh gave the ballot to Jennifer Locke who then showed both representatives and put it in the corresponding basket.
The tabulators would add up the votes on a tabulation sheet to know exactly how many votes were cast for each candidate out of the 213 used. The candidates’ representatives also got to follow along with their own tabulation sheet (see my copy below).
Once all 213 votes were determined, this sample of ballots was brought to the counting room to be run through the machine. This sample grouping would go through the same logic and accuracy test as the election night ones went through. If the accuracy test showed that there was a 2 ballot difference in count then the machine would be used. If the machine had a different count that varied by 3 or more votes, the machine would have been scrapped and all ballots would have been counted by hand. Asa was the person who ran the ballots through the machine, the accuracy count was given to Jennifer Locke, who gave it to Jim Brannon, who gave it to Barry McHugh, who verified that the machine showed exactly the same number of votes cast for each candidate that was confirmed in the hand count.
The machine was then zeroed out, sample ballots were put back in with the rest of precinct 66, and the counting was about to officially begin.
The team started with the early voting ballots, still separated by the day they were originally received into the office. After running each day through the machine, there was a pause to confirm that the number of ballots ran through the machine matched the number that the sorters/counters got earlier in the morning and matched the number that Jennifer had from election day. After all early votes were counted, the machine was stopped, reports of the count were printed out, and the machine was zeroed out to begin the absentee ballots. The early vote count was exactly the same as it was on election night:
Bjerke – 223
Swingrover – 238
Under Votes – 12 (ballots that voted in other races but not in the Bjerke/Swingrover race OR completely blank ballots)
The absentee process was exactly like the early voting counting process: Jennifer already had the number of ballots that were to be run through the machine, so when each day of ballots was ran the team would pause, confirm the number of ballots still matched what Jennifer had, and the process continued. After all absentee votes were counted, the machine was stopped, reports of the count were printed out, and the machine was zeroed out to begin the day-of precinct ballots. The absentee vote count was exactly the same as it was on election night:
Bjerke – 315
Swingrover – 787
Under Votes – 21
Day-of precinct ballots was the last set; because there was no pre-sorting and the whole precinct was going to be recounted it made this process quick and straightforward to run through. After all precinct votes were counted, the machine was stopped, reports of the count were printed out, and the machine was zeroed out to end the day. The precinct vote count was exactly the same as it was on election night:
Bjerke – 1,567
Swingrover – 1,053
Under Votes – 35
All three groups of ballots brought the grand total to:
Bjerke – 2,105
Swingrover – 2,078
Under Votes – 68
Once the count was complete and the results confirmed, the Sheriff was called to come take custody of all the ballots again. The ballots will be sealed and locked in the evidence locker until further notice.
The candidates have 24 hours to appeal the recount results. Due to the recount there is no option of a lawsuit.
MY HANDCOUNT TALLY SHEET
Overall, I came away from this experience with a few thoughts:
This entire “practice” wouldn’t have been necessary if someone from the campaign would have been watching the day of the election, although it’s definitely their right to have a recount. They would have found the entire counting process transparent and straightforward. Every person on the ballot can designate a person/people to represent them as a watcher during the count.
I am now a stronger advocate for this Clerk’s office and their integrity. I was pretty vocal about my support for the Brannon/Locke team but this process has solidified it. The entire group that was involved in the recount are a great bunch of people.
Election integrity revolves around the PEOPLE. If we elect morally defunct people to the Clerk’s role then we would never be fully content that our elections are accurate.
Multiple elected offices were involved in this recount (and the original elections). If we are not 100% sure of those we elect, we will never be 100% ensured that the process is legitimate. This is where candidate vetting comes into play and I think we are on the right track to find the best person for each job.
Jim Brannon will not be running for reelection so we need to spread the word to find someone to step up. I’m *hoping* Jennifer Locke will run for Clerk but I have not talked with her about my hopes and dreams for that position. :D