Appeals Court dismisses challenge over Moses Lake School BondChelan County Deputy wins

first_imgThe Moses Lake School District’s construction bond election has been upheld as a state appeals court denied a request to annul the election results.  Our Grant County news partner iFiber One News reports the court dismissed the challenge that the Grant County Auditor engaged in misconduct by failing to call voters who had not returned their ballots after they failed to respond to notifications of signature issues  sent by mail. The district’s $135 million bond passed in February of last year. The petitioners have hinted at seeking further legal proceedings to the state Supreme Court.The Division III Court of Appeals affirmed a Grant County Superior Court decision to dismiss the election challenge. The petitioners, six Moses Lake School District voters, appealed the superior court decision, claiming Grant County Auditor Michele Jaderlund engaged in misconduct by failing to call voters who had not returned their ballots after they were notified of signature issues by mail.Under state law, the auditor “shall notify the voter by first-class mail and advise the voter of the correct procedures for completing the unsigned declaration.” The law continues to state the auditor “shall attempt to notify the voter by telephone.”Both parties in the lawsuit agreed Jaderlund failed to make the phone calls despite having the phone numbers of the voters who failed to respond to the mailed notice of a challenged ballot. And like Grant County Superior Court, the appeals court ruled there was substantial compliance from Jaderlund with her duty to notify voters, and state law does not void an election if the auditor neglects one of her duties.The appeals court also noted the petitioners could not show that the election results would have changed if the challenged ballots had been returned and counted in the election.“An election is not to be set aside for a mere informality or irregularity that cannot be said in any manner to have affected the result of the election,” Chief Judge George B. Fearing wrote in the courts opinion. “The Moses Lake School District bond measure passed with a razor thin supermajority. Three votes could have changed the outcome. Nevertheless, we have no evidence that any of the uncalled voters would have corrected the signature if called, and, upon a correction, would have voted against the bond measure. Therefore, we cannot conclude that calling the voters would likely have altered the election result.”The petitioners also argued the auditor’s oversight in not calling disenfranchised the voters. The appeals court also ruled against that argument.“The vital and essential question in all election irregularity cases is whether want of statutory notice resulted in depriving sufficient of the electors of the opportunity to exercise their franchise to change the result of the election. We do not consider the uncalled voters as being deprived of the opportunity to exercise the franchise. They had ample opportunity and notice to vote,” Fearing wrote.Construction for the school district’s $135.3 million bond passed in the February 2017 special election is already delayed by at least a year.last_img read more