After weeks of promoting the Teton School District 401 Zone 4 election, Kathleen Haar was convinced she had lost her shot at joining the school board.
The election results were posted by Teton County, Idaho, on Tuesday evening, and in Zone 4, incumbent Jake Kunz was declared the winner. Haar went to Kunz’s house to offer congratulations.
Then the pair were dealt a surprise reversal Wednesday morning when Teton County Clerk Kim Keeley announced several hundred votes were not included in the initial tally. Keeley told the Jackson Hole Daily the mistake stemmed from a miscommunication between her and her election coordinator after an exhausting 17-hour day.
“I thought I had the correct report that included both the absentee and election day, and I just had the election day report,” she said. “It is regrettably a really simple human error that has really tough consequences in our current climate.”
Keeley was concerned the mishap would stoke doubts about election integrity.
“It creates a lot of mistrust in the system, which is actually a really good system,” she said.
The miscount was the second issue in the Teton Valley election. The first came last Saturday when Keeley was informed two voters received the wrong ballots.
Idaho Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck told the Daily on Wednesday that his office worked with Keeley to resolve both conflicts. The pair also emphasized that election results are unofficial until they are canvassed by county commissioners.
“We’re habitually used to seeing results on election night and calling the election based on those results,” Houck said. “Even though we all overlook the fact that they say ‘unofficial’ all over them.”
In Haar’s case the additional absentee ballots meant she ended up winning the school board position with 54% of the vote (because 238 votes were not included in the initial calculations).
In the race for Driggs City Council, Scott Stuntz and Erika Earles were initially declared the victors, but when 237 additional votes were added, Miles Knowles ended up tying Earles for second.
Because two seats are available, there will likely be a runoff election this month. Under Idaho law, both candidates can also request a recount.
In Teton School District 401 Zone 3, Jeannette Boner can request a recount after new numbers showed her losing to Ray Hinchcliff by just four votes.
Three race results remained unaffected by the initial undercount, with City Councilor August Christensen defeating Hyrum Johnson in the Driggs mayoral race and Stacy Hulsing and Sue Muncaster taking seats on the Victor City Council.
Corrected election numbers have been posted on the Idaho secretary of state website.
In his interview with the Daily, Houck said he wasn’t concerned about the integrity of Teton Valley’s elections.
“With regards to the race that was flipped, and the new tie that was created, those were simply ballots that are all accountable, all properly issued, and all still meet all their ballot inventory control numbers,” he said. “They simply weren’t added when they posted their unofficial results last night."