Judge invalidates drainage district election, county will redo election for that seat
The election for a commissioner seat on the West Side Flood Control and Drainage District is getting a redo.
A special election has been set for March 16 for that seat after District Court Judge Elizabeth Best declared the election in valid in a late December order and ordered the county to redo the election within 85 days.
The county attorney’s office didn’t notify the county elections of the order until nearly two weeks later.
The election was on the May 5 ballot and incumbent Nicky Putnam was seeking reelection. She was unseated by Scott Lankford by 29 votes.
Only Putnam and Lankford will be on the March 16 ballot for the flood and drainage district seat.
In her complaint, Putnam alleges that election was invalid because ballots were sent to all residents of the district instead of only those owning property in the district, as required by law.
The elections office had interpreted the law to include all registered voters in the district, according to Rina Moore, county clerk and recorder. That included voters who rented property within the district, which the court has deemed to be incorrect.
According to the petition, 830 ballots were mailed and 482 were returned. Only 519 ballots should have been sent to those owning property in the district, according to the complaint.
In the redo election, ballots will only be mailed to voters who own property and live within the district. Those who own property but live outside the district may go to the elections office with their property taxes to show ownership and receive a ballot, according to the elections office.
Ballots will be mailed March 1, according to the elections office. The election will cost $2,000 to $3,000, according to the elections office.
Putnam notified the Cascade County Elections Office of the error on May 11 and the elections office asked County Attorney Josh Racki’s office for an opinion.
In their June 18 letter to the elections office, the county attorney’s office stated, “based upon election privacy laws, it is not possible at this time after the election to screen out the votes case by ineligible and unqualified voters to determine which voters were case by eligible and qualified individuals versus voters which were not,” according to the petition.
Putnam filed her petition with the court until July.
Elections officials expressed concern with the court’s decision to invalidate the election since in their interpretation, state law requires that a candidate contest the results of an election within 5 days.