It's Official - School Levy Fails On Tie Vote

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

The verdict is in.

By the slimmest of margins, voters have rejected the Glenwood Community School District’s 10-year Instructional Support Levy (ISL).

Tuesday morning, the Mills County Board of Supervisors accepted the formal canvas of ballots from the Feb. 3 special election. The final result: 434 Yes votes and 434 No votes, meaning the school district has come up one vote short of getting the simple majority needed for passage.

Tuesday’s action by the board of supervisors came one day after an election canvassing board ruled that because state criteria wasn’t met, an absentee ballot turned in on Friday (three days after the election) by Glenwood resident Alex Martin couldn’t be accepted.

State law requires that hand-delivered absentee ballots be returned to the county election commissioner by the time polls close on election day. The state code also requires a ballot be returned to the election commissioner in a designated postage-paid "carrier envelope" provided at the time the absentee ballot is distributed, a provision not met by Martin, the canvassing board concluded.

Martin initially attempted to return his ballot by mail in an affidavit envelope, also included in the absentee packet. The envelope was returned to his residence because of insufficient postage.

The board’s decision to disallow Martin’s absentee ballot culminated a roller coaster week for Glenwood Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Stan Sibley and ISL proponents.

On two occasions last week, Sibley thought the levy had won passage.

An initial count of ballots on election night showed the levy passing by a count of 430-426. However, a recount took place moments later after election workers determined 12 ballots did not get counted as a result of a malfunction with the electronic ballot-counting machine. After the discrepancy between the number of ballots cast (868) and the number of ballots actually counted (856) was discovered, the machine’s memory card was cleared and the ballots were placed back into the machine for a recount. The recount showed the vote tied at 434-434.

Sibley was at the auditor’s office when the initial results were announced. He left the county courthouse before the recount took place, believing the levy had passed. He was notified of the turn of events moments later.

"It’s very difficult," Sibley said after learning of the apparent defeat of the measure. "All I can say is I’m deeply disappointed and obviously very sad for the community as a whole, but especially for the kids. "It’s pretty sobering, recognizing that our kids don’t have a level playing field. With-out resources, we just aren’t going to continue to compete with districts that place priorities in the classroom."

Mills County Auditor Carol Robertson confirmed on election night that one outstanding absentee ballot remained in the community.

Sibley learned on Friday that the outstanding ballot, belonging to Martin, had been delivered to the county auditor’s office. Sibley said he was of the understanding that the ballot contained a "Yes" vote and met the criteria to be counted in the election. On Saturday afternoon, however, Sibley learned from Robertson that the envelope containing the ballot had not been opened and would be turned over to the canvassing board for consideration.

"This has been a real roller coaster ride," Sibley said Saturday.

The canvassing board’s decision not to accept Martin’s ballot was made late Monday afternoon after consultation with the office of the Iowa Secretary of State and the Mills County Attorney’s office. The decision wasn’t announced until Tuesday’s county supervisor meeting.

Robertson downplayed the focus of attention that’s been placed on Martin’s absentee ballot, noting that only about 10 percent of the 8,030 eligible voters in the school district took part in the election process.

"This isn’t about him," Robertson said. "It’s not about what happened with this one ballot. "The issue is the people who didn’t vote."

Sibley described the defeat as a "setback," for curriculum and technology upgrades within the district, but vowed that GCSD employees will continue to be committed to providing the best possible education for the children of the school system.

"We’ll continue to be resourceful and we’ll continue to give 100 percent," Sibley said. "We recognize that it’s the peoples’ school. It’s their kids, their money and their school."