South Kitsap School District: An Unfortunate Series of Events

South Kitsap School District will pay an estimated $70,000 for the Aug. 18 primary election, even though one of the candidates in the three-way race for school board is ineligible.
Gail F. Porter moved out of district 3 after filing to run against incumbent Naomi Polen and former school board member Chris Lemke. By the time she informed the Kitsap County auditor’s office of her new address, the June 11 deadline to withdraw from the race had passed.
Porter said she knew she was moving at the time she filed but was unaware that her new home would be outside district 3 boundaries. Porter said her new home is not far from her old residence, so it didn’t occur to her that she would be ineligible. When she realized she had moved out of district, she asked to withdraw but was told she could not, she said.
According to Kitsap County elections manager Dolores Gilmore, candidates are not allowed to withdraw after June 11 because ballots must be printed early enough to allow for timely distribution prior to the primary, Gilmore said.

And as luck (or lack thereof) would have it, South Kitsap will bear a large portion of the total cost of the primary election, even though it is sharing the cost with other Kitsap jurisdictions, said Gilmore, who estimates the total cost of the primary at about $290,000.
South Kitsap, with 39,199 registered voters out of 119,000 total in this election, is one of the largest jurisdictions besides Central Kitsap School District, so it bears a proportionate part of the cost.
Furthermore, South Kitsap voters will only be voting on one race, unlike Bremerton, Poulsbo and Bainbridge residents, who will vote for both school board members and city council members. Those cities and school districts will share the cost of the elections within their respective boundaries where they overlap.
Porter, an Army veteran, said she would never have filed had she known what she knows now. “I totally get it,” she said. “You’ve got rules you’ve got to follow.

School Board President Patty Henderson said the district can ill afford  the $70,000 for a redundant election. “I’m sure all this (state laws) was put in place for good reason,” she said. “But unfortunately, there are unintended scenarios.”

Porter’s name will be on the primary, but not the general election ballot. If, by some chance, Porter were to win the general election, state law says the board (presumably with Polen stepping down if she were still in the race) would appoint to the position.

And for anyone keeping track, Henderson herself moved out of the district to which she was originally elected. Under state law, she was able to serve out the remainder of her term. Henderson, now into the third year of her second term, ran again and won in the district to which she had moved.

The difference between Henderson’s situation and Porter’s is that Henderson already held the office (see RCW’s below). If you’re curious, you can see all the board policies and the laws to which they relate by going to the school district’s Web site and looking under “Our District,” then “School Board,” then “Board Policies.”

Residency.

Notwithstanding RCW 42.12.010(4), a school director elected from a director district may continue to serve as a director from the district even though the director no longer resides in the director district, but continues to reside in the school district, under the following conditions:

(1) If, as a result of redrawing the director district boundaries, the director no longer resides in the director district, the director shall retain his or her position for the remainder of his or her term of office; and

(2) If, as a result of the director changing his or her place of residence the director no longer resides in the director district, the director shall retain his or her position until a successor is elected and assumes office as follows: (a) If the change in residency occurs after the opening of the regular filing period provided under *RCW 29.15.020, in the year two years after the director was elected to office, the director shall remain in office for the remainder of his or her term of office; or (b) if the change in residency occurs prior to the opening of the regular filing period provided under *RCW 29.15.020, in the year two years after the director was elected to office, the director shall remain in office until a successor assumes office who has been elected to serve the remainder of the unexpired term of office at the school district general election held in that year.

9 thoughts on “South Kitsap School District: An Unfortunate Series of Events

  1. So, SKSD has to pay its share of the cost for printing and mailing the ballots out to its registered voters.

    What if no one casts a ballot in SKSD in the primary election? Does the Auditor charge the same, whether there are 20,000 returned ballots or zero returned ballots? (Or, to be unkind, does the Auditor rip off a jurisdiction by ignoring a complete lack of ballot processing beyond the initial mailing?)

    If it makes a difference, it might be fun to see whether it’s possible to spread the word and save some money. We could find out who pays no attention at all, yet still votes, by simply looking afterwards to see who was credited with casting a ballot in the primary.

  2. The filing period was June 1-5. Ms. Porter’s two addresses have been listed on the candidate filing report (available online and updated daily since the filing period opened) since the day she filed. Did she tell the Auditor’s office that she would be moving so quickly? Whose responsibility was it to check the second address? Ms. Porter’s? The Kitsap County Auditor’s Office? Both?

    Candidate Filing Report…
    http://www.kitsapgov.com/aud/elections/Filing/index-cndfil-CMP.html

    Also, if Ms. Porter became aware that she was ineligible on June 18th, I’m really perplexed as to why she appeared before the Kitsap Sun Editorial Board on July 1st, when they interviewed SKSD District 3 candidates, as if she were still a candidate?

    Finally, there seems to be a change in position by the Kitsap County Auditor’s office about this. I called them on June 8th (a day after I became aware of the situation) and explained the scenario and asked what the law said about it. I was told that she could continue to run, but could only serve two years, since they said the eligibility was based on the filing date not the election date. When I called today to ask why there was a change, the individual with whom I had previously spoken told me that they didn’t recall the conversation with me.

    If the primary election were necessary to pare down to two eligible candidates, I would say, “yup, that is the American way”. However, a primary isn’t needed now. There are only two eligible candidates and the ballots haven’t been mailed. Why go to the expense of mailing out the ballots that aren’t consequential? If this is the law, I will be advocating a modification to the law to make it better.

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  3. Kathryn, didn’t you know that the least reliable source of information about the rules governing a bureaucrat’s job is the bureaucrat whose job is governed by those rules?

    In your comment above, you said you called the auditor’s office “on June 8th (a day after I became aware of the situation)….”

    You mean you knew of an apparent problem before the June 11 deadline for withdrawing? How did you know?

    Do you have any idea why some of the addresses on the candidate filing page you linked to are in italics? Is the italicized address supposed to be a mailing address while the other is the actual residence?

    Do you know whether the auditor charges you based on the number of ballots mailed O-U-T to voters, and not at all on the number that have to be processed after being mailed I-N to the auditor by voters?

    The mailing to voters is automated and cheap, compared to what is supposed to be a careful authentication process and vote tallying after the voters return their ballots for vote tallying. So, I’m wondering if this obvious difference makes any difference in the amount SKSD has to pay the Auditor.

  4. Bob – I checked with Dolores Gilmore, elections manager, on your suggestion that the district would save money if people essentially boycotted the primary. Not so, according to Dolores, who said the bulk of expenses incurred go to printing the ballot, postages and envelopes. The portion a jurisdiction pays of the total cost is based on A. the number of voters in the district and B. whether or not there is more than one issue within a certain geographical area. In South Kitsap’s case there are no other jurisdictions to share the cost of printing and mailing ballots to voters within the district. You’d think mailing would be “automated and cheap.” Automated, yes, cheap, apparently not.

    Chris Henry, SK reporter

  5. It seems nutty that printing is in the top three, as far as total costs go. Who are they using for their printing services? In my experience, printing costs per piece only go down as your quantities go up. For interest’s sake, has anyone thought to solicit quotes from a handful of printers re: what was required on this job…and just…compare? Maybe this is one area worth looking into re: cutting costs in future (not just in special circumstances, but for ALL elections being held).

  6. Tristan,

    When they print the ballots, they may be ordering 119,000 ballots but there are several different versions of the ballots based on the precincts of the voters. For example, a few of the voters in SK will see two primaries on the ballot (SKSD and the Port of Bremerton) because they are in both SKSD and the Port Commissioner District that requires a primary). But most SKSD voters, like me, won’t see the Port primary on our ballots because we aren’t in Port Commissioner District #1). Others, in Bremerton (for example) won’t have the SKSD primary, but may have the BSD primaries and the Port Commissioner District #1 primary or, if you are in the Port District, but in CKSD, you could have the Port race and the CKSD primaries….

    It would not surprise me that there would be up to 30 different ‘master’ ballots to print. Then they have to make sure that the right ballots get in the right envelopes. Oh, and each ballot is uniquely numbered, so you can’t just make copies of the 2,000 ballots that will go out to precinct #4 (for example).

    I can fully respect this being a labor intensive endeavor and the associated cost. My understanding that the formula to decide who pays what portion of the election costs is a state formula universally used by the counties.

    However, if (hypothetically) the primary were unnecessary and the work was done without being necessary, the question is who should have to bear the burden of costs incurred erroneously.

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  7. My question was whether the cost allocation among the jurisdictions with positions up for election is affected by the number of voters actually returning ballots to the Auditor.

    The answer is “no.”

    Look in the BARS Manual for the State Auditor’s formula, which the county is supposed to use, so far as I can tell.

    The number of “registered voters” is used to allocate the costs, not the number of “voters” who actually vote in the election.

    You can find the method for calculating the cost allocations starting at page 436 of this pdf file:
    http://www.sao.wa.gov/EN/Audits/LocalGovernment/BarsManuals/Documents/GAAP_2009.pdf

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