Parent group starts recount for barely-failed Snoqualmie middle school bond
March 1, 2011 · Updated 2:57 PM
Within hours of King County Elections certifying that the Snoqualmie Valley School District bond had failed, a recount was in the works.
As of Thursday afternoon, Feb. 24, a group of local citizens had petitioned King County Elections for the recount, led by Snoqualmie parent Sean Sundwall.
“Ten thousand people voted in this election and 59.99 percent of them were in favor of the bond,” Sundwall said. “Why not recount it? This is about making sure the count was correct.”
Actual voter turnout was 9,980, with 5,972 voting in favor of the bond, and 3,983 voting against. In talking with King County Elections, Sundwall learned that the remaining 25 ballots had marks only for the North Bend fire station bond issue, and were not counted toward the school bond.
If just one “no” vote was actually a “yes” vote that had been counted incorrectly, the bond would have the 60 percent approval needed to pass.
“As a ‘yes’ voter, I hope we’re able to find a couple of mistakes in that favor,” said Sundwall.
Sundwall wants an “instant replay” to help make the right call. Early Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 23, he put up the SVSD School Bond Recount Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/SVSD-School-Bond-Recount/195085227182549), calling for support of a recount petition, and $2,500 in donations to pay for it.
Nearly 150 people donated and “we were able to raise the funds in about nine hours,” Sundwall said.
On Thursday, he filed the recount petition with King County Elections, and paid a deposit of 25 cents per ballot for a manual recount. Washington law requires that all recount petitions be initiated by a group of five registered voters, who agree to pay the full cost of the recount. The deposit, Sundwall said, “is a good-faith estimate of how much it might cost.”
Kim van Ekstrom, Chief Communications Officer for King County Elections, said Friday that the recount will likely begin mid-week next week, after the county Canvassing Board reviews the request and directs staff to proceed with the recount.
“They did anticipate that this was a possibility, since the election was so close,” van Ekstrom said.
The manual recount has been scheduled for Thursday, March 3, and the Canvassing Board will meet on Friday, March 4, to certify the results.
For the recount, van Ekstrom said Elections staff will pull all of the ballots from the affected voting districts, and divide them among teams of at least two. Teams will manually recount their batches and tabulate their results in a combined spreadsheet to determine the final count.
If the result of the recount changes the outcome of the bond issue, the deposit raised by Sundwall and supporters will be refunded, or partially refunded if the recount costs were less than the deposit amount. Sundwall said on his website that any refunded money would be donated to Valley Voters for Education, to support future bond measures.
The likelihood of the recount changing the outcome, however, is very small. King County Elections performs multiple accuracy tests prior to the election to ensure that machine and hand counts are equally accurate.
“The tests we did for this election showed 100 percent accuracy,” said van Ekstrom.
“It’s rare to find any ballots that would come out differently in the event of a recount, but it could happen,” she added.
The most likely error that a manual recount would uncover are improperly-marked ballots, such as an X or a circle around a voter’s choice, rather than the machine-readable blackened oval, van Ekstrom said. Another likely possibility is that a voter’s mark is too light for a machine to pick up.
Regarding the 25 ballots not counted in the bond, neither Sundwall nor van Ekstrom expect any change to come from them.
“They’ve looked at those 10 or 15 times already,” Sundwall said.
Sundwall does expect change, though, even if the result is not in favor of the bond. “I think the only guarantee is probably that the numbers won’t come out exactly the same,” he said.
He is hopeful that the recount will give the bond its needed supermajority, but if it doesn’t, “the district will have some decisions to make.”
The recount effort is entirely “grass-roots,” he emphasized. “This has nothing to do with the district,” Sundwall said. “A lot of people in the community got the fire started.”
Sundwall’s own involvment with the recount started on Wednesday. He’d been an active volunteer with Valley Voters for Education on two previous bond issues to build a new high school, but said he hadn’t had the time to get involved with this bond, until he saw it failing.
“Somebody’s got to start this thing,” he decided.
Snoqualmie Valley School District’s Proposition 1 is a $56.2 million bond issue to build a new $48.3 million middle school and complete various repairs on eight other buildings in the district.
Results of the recount will be posted on the King County Elections web site: http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections.