Anaconda School Board counts lost ballets, results remain unchanged


ANACONDA, Mont. - The numbers are in and the elected 2014 Anaconda school board trustees will remain unchanged. The board met Wednesday night to count misplaced absentee ballets from last year's election. Upon making a motion to count the ballets, two trustees voted against it. The board took a recess while the votes were totaled. From the lost ballets, trustee Mike Huotte received 23 additional votes and new trustee Angela Galle received 27. Before the votes were in, Galle spoke to the board, saying counting these votes was just a formality for her. "You can count the ballets, which is fine with me,"said Galle. "But it's probably not going to matter because I was elected, as most of us know, last night for this year's school board term and I intend on accepting that seat." The board chairman told NBC Montana they have already worked out a plan to prevent another situation like this from happening. When you fill out an absentee ballet and send it to be counted, it first goes to the county courthouse where election officials verify your signature. Then the ballets are sent to the school district to be counted in the election. "This particular group for whatever reason got misplaced at the courthouse and were discovered last month, almost a year later," said Anaconda Superintendent Tom Darnell. There were 55 uncounted ballets in all, and while it may not seem like many, it could change the outcome of the entire 2013 election. Mike Houtte defeated Angela Galle in the 2013 race by just 24 votes. "Mathematically, it's possible that fourth-place candidate could exceed the person who was elected, but it's improbable," said Darnell. Darnell said the school district contacted the Montana School Board Association to find out how to resolve the error. It started with counting the ballots at special school board meeting. "The issue for the count is that every voter has the right to have their ballet and their vote included in the total," he said. School board chairman Steve Tozzi appointed three trustees to count the ballets at Wednesday night's meeting. "We want every vote to count; we want everyone's voice heard, and that's why we're going to recount these votes, so we get it right," said Tozzi. Tozzi said the district is taking steps to make sure something like this never happens again. "They've added a step in the procedure where where he will count the ballets before sending them to the county, that way when they're returned he will check to make sure he has the same amount."