Parent alerted superintendent to problems with vote totals

NEW ULM – The District 88 School Board meets at 9 a.m. Friday in the District Administrative Center (DAC) board room to canvass primary election results.

After further review late Tuesday evening, it appeared the school district’s $46.9 million school building bond referendum was approved by a mere 52 votes, 2,642 to 2,590.

Earlier in the evening, voting results showed the referendum was defeated by 49 votes.

After sending out emails to school board members with the news and a press release to the media, District 88 Superintendent Jeff Bertrang got an email from a parent who reviewed the referendum voting results and noticed the vote totals in their precinct didn’t look right.

“I called the Brown County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office at about 10:40 p.m. and asked them to look at the precinct totals, and they said they found the problem,” Bertrang said. “Original information calculated the (Ward 1, Precinct 2) precinct with 41 total votes (455 votes shy of the actual 496 votes, which included enough “yes” votes to swing the referendum the other way for approval).”

Brown County Auditor/Treasurer and Chief Election Official Marlin Helget said the voting discrepancy would have been caught before the end of the primary election night regardless.

“That’s why the vote total is unofficial until it is presented to the school board for canvassing,” Helget said.

The chart with this story shows the breakdown of votes in the district. Albin Township in Brown County had no voters because only one farmsite is located there, and it is not occupied.

Minnesota election law authorizes administrative recounts after the canvassing board certifies results. Rather than seeking a court order, the election administrator, on behalf of the appropriate canvassing board, may conduct a manual recount, according to the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State (SOS).

A recount, performed by a canvassing board or by its staff, is limited in scope; the sole issue a recount may resolve is whether election judges arrived at a correct vote total, according to the SOS.

A publicly-funded recount of votes cast for a county, school or municipal ballot question may be requested by any person eligible to vote on the question if the difference between the votes cast for the question and against the question is:

Less than one-half of one percent of the total votes if there are more than 400 but less than 50,000 votes counted for the question.

The difference between the votes cast for the question and against it was nine-tenths of one percent in the District 88 referendum.

For ballot question vote differences greater than one-half of one percent (as in District 88) a recount may be requested by any person eligible to vote on the ballot question, at their expense. A voter who requests a recount must submit a petition containing the signatures of 25 voters eligible to vote on the question, according to state law.

The person requesting the recount shall also file with the filing officer of the county, municipality or school district a bond, cash or surety in the amount set by the appropriate governing body for the payment of recount expenses. The request must be submitted in writing to the election jurisdiction within five days of the canvass of the primary election, and within seven days of the canvass of the general election.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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