Four more ballots could be counted

by: PHOTO BY CINDY DIX - Culver Superintendent Stefanie Garber stands next to the Culver Elementary School wing that will be demolished if the bond levy passes. The building has been deemed structurally unsafe in the event of an earthquake. Garber hopes to learn the fate of the close vote next week.A week after voters supported the Culver School District's $8.8 million bond levy by the narrowest of margins, the final tally remains uncertain.

On election night, Nov. 5, the vote stood at 588-585, but it turned out that there were other ballots that still hadn't been counted: ballots deposited in other counties, and ballots with signature problems.

Jefferson County Clerk Kathy Marston said that there were 24 ballots in the election with signature issues, but only three of those were from the Culver School District. One of those was unsigned, and two had signatures that were challenged.

"When we verify signatures, we check to make sure that the signature we have on file matches the signature on the ballot envelope," Marston said. "Everybody's signature varies from time to time, but we've all had training to look for similarities in the signatures."

The three ballots with signature issues were turned in before Election Day, and Marston said that her office sent out postcards or called the voters to let them know that there were problems with their ballots.

"The voters have until next Friday (Nov. 15) at 5 p.m. to prove up their ballot signatures or sign their ballots if they didn't sign them," she said. "I cannot open them until they're accepted. If people don't resolve the issues with them, they will never be opened."

In addition to those three, one of the seven ballots turned in to Deschutes County was from the Culver School District, which means that there are four ballots which have the potential to influence the outcome of the Culver school levy.

"On Monday, I will make the final tally of votes, and if it is three votes or less, I will notify the Secretary of State's Office and they will give me my marching orders for a recount," said Marston, who will have one or two members of the County Elections Board assist with opening and counting the ballots "like we count all the rest of them — by machine."

A recall occurs when the difference between yes and no votes is 0.2 percent or less, or two votes per 1,000. With a total of 1,173 votes received so far, that would trigger a recount when the difference is 2.3, or rounded up, three votes.

"We would recount for three, but not four," said Marston.

With such a slim lead in the vote, Culver Superintendent Stefanie Garber said she has no fingernails left from biting them.

"I think it's going to be nip and tuck and torturous the whole way," she said.

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