MADERA COUNTY – The Bass Lake School District will need a do-over on their Area 4 Trustee election. Results of the Nov. 4 contest were in already in question when the County Office of Elections declined to certify results of the race. Now, the long-time Trustee who seemed to have been voted out will remain in office until a new election can be held next year.
Concerns were first expressed last fall when the contest for Trustee required provisional ballots because of a mistake on the original printed ballots. The problem was discovered before the election, but after ballots were mailed out to constituents. Following the election, Madera County website results showed Area 4 challenger Dalene Stephens as the winner by a slim margin over Bill Freed. Incumbent David Read appeared to have received a minority of votes, but California Education Code (Ed Code) election laws dictate that he shall remain in office pending a new election.
“According to Ed Code 5017, the current Trustee will continue to fill the seat until a successor is qualified through the certification of the new election results in June,” states BLSD Superintendent Glenn Reid.
The issue stems from the County Office of Elections printing ballots based on an inaccurate map of trustee boundary areas. According to County Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez, the same map was provided on four different occasions by the Bass Lake School District.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Reid confirms the results for Trustee Area 4 election were not certified by the County of Madera as of Dec. 2, as required by law in order for a new Trustee to assume office.
“On November 25, 2014 the timeline for this certification was extended by the Madera County Superior Court in order to allow the District sufficient time to call and conduct a new election,” Reid says. “New elections can only be held no less than 130 days after an order of election, and in California, elections can only take place in March, June and November. This Resolution directs the County Superintendent of Schools to call for a new election for the Area 4 seat. Due to the 130 day rule, the soonest this election can take place is June 2, 2014.”
According to Superintendent Reid, there’s no getting around Ed Code.
“As a school district we are eager to put this issue behind us,” he states. “While the final resolution to the situation is six months away, every entity involved in this is required to follow the election laws of the state of California.”
Ahwahnee resident, and candidate for the position Dalene Stephens has been informed by the Superintendent of the decision, and she agrees that rules are paramount.
“I am extremely happy to see the district is following Ed Code, even if that means I do not get to represent my area,” says Stephens.
In November, County Registrar Rebecca Martinez said the cost of an all mail paper ballot special election could be about $4,500. There is disagreement among the various parties as to who caused the mix-up, and therefore who should pay for the new election. However the Ed Code states, “The cost of any election held within a single district shall be borne by the entire district, and shall be paid out of its funds. Election costs shall be determined by the county elections official and approved by the county board of supervisors.”
The next BLSD Board Meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 10. at 6 p.m., at Oak Creek Intermediate School in the Computer Lab on campus. The public is welcome to attend. The request for a new election in Trustee Area 4 is an action item on the agenda at this meeting.