Recall proponents say they'll try again

By Chris Collins August 08, 2012 10:17 am

By Chris Collins

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The effort to recall two Baker School Board members is not over, according to the chief petitioner, Kerry McQuisten.

County Clerk Tami Green announced Tuesday that petitioners had fallen short of the 913 valid signatures needed to force a recall election for board members Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson.

Green certified 910 valid signatures for the recall of Burroughs, and 900 to recall Henderson.

McQuisten said she disagrees with Green’s decision regarding some of the signatures that were thrown out.

McQuisten said she will file another petition.

In some cases, entire petition sheets, which included as many as 10 signatures, were disqualified because Green said it appeared that the date the sheets were signed had been altered.

One of those petitions was circulated by McQuisten. She said her pen spurted a blob of blue ink onto the sheet. McQuisten said in her view it was obvious that the original date had not been altered.

That petition, which Green invalidated, contained 10 signatures, McQuisten said.

Once a petition sheet is invalidated, none of the signatures on it is counted, nor are they checked individually.

Another petition, circulated by Virginia Kostol, also was invalidated, according to Suzan Jones, McQuisten’s mother. Jones is treasurer of the recall committee.

One digit on the date printed on Kostol’s petition is in darker ink than the rest of the date

“(The county clerk) said it was covering up another number when it wasn’t,” Jones said.

In disqualifying Kostol’s petition, six to eight more potentially valid signatures were thrown out.

“She disenfranchised so many people,” Jones said, adding that she believes Green was biased against the recall since the beginning.

“You could tell by her expression and her body language that she didn’t want to deal with it,” Jones said. “It’s boiling down to small-town politics.”

Green said she conferred with District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff regarding election laws and also sought advice from the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office before ruling on the signatures.

She said she and her staff carefully reviewed the petitions to ensure sheets were properly signed and dated by circulators.

The clerk and her staff used the Centralized Voter Registration computer program to review voter registration signatures and to compare them with signatures on the petition sheets.

The program can search by first or last names, addresses or even by sound-alike words to help identify names that might be difficult to read, Green said.

Signatures that appear irregular when compared to the voter registration card are given a second or third look before a decision is made, Green said.

“It’s not just cut and dried — it doesn’t match,” she said. “We look for every reason to count something rather than not — even though I know they don’t feel that way right now.”

The circulators gathered 1,066 signatures to recall Burroughs and 1,059 to recall Henderson.

In speaking with the Secretary of State’s office, McQuisten learned that petitioners could either file a lawsuit or try again to gather the required number of valid signatures.

McQuisten said the obvious choice is to try again.

She acknowledged that petitioners did gather signatures that rightfully should have been thrown out because the signers were not registered or had been inactive om voting or lived outside the district. 

“But when you see a valid, registered voter eliminated because one person has decided the signature is missing a loop — c’mon,” McQuisten said.

In that case, she’s referring to Green’s decision to invalidate some names because the signature on the petition did not match the signature on the the signer’s voter registration card at the Clerk’s Office.

McQuisten said the recall committee will take the names and addresses from the petitions that were turned in and contact the signers again to collect the needed signatures.

“We have a list of 1,000 people who are verified, registered voters who have signed the sheets,” she said.

Jones maintains that the loss of the two petitions circulated by McQuisten and Kostol alone tipped the scale against the recall committee.

 McQuisten started the recall effort this spring after Burroughs, Henderson and director Andrew Bryan voted to censure fellow board member Kyle Knight. The three contended that Knight violated his oath of office by releasing confidential  information to the media. Since  the censure vote, Knight’s access to district staff and to confidential information has been restricted.

In a Tuesday email to the Baker City Herald, Knight criticized Green’s handling of the petitions.

“I am disappointed and appalled with our local election officials,” Knight stated. “If they treat the general election in the same regard and manner, we all need to be concerned. This is why people do not vote.”

Tina Moothart, who was both a petition circulator and a petition signer, acknowledged that her signature on the petition she signed did not match her voter registration card.

She attributed the variation to the space allotted to signers and to the fact that she was chatting while signing the petition.

“My signature is pretty crazy,” she said, adding that had she used her usual signature style, she’d have written over other names on the petition.