BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison school board will be asking for a recount of Tuesday’s failed $30 million school bond referendum.
The vote failed to reach the state-mandated 60% +1 vote threshold by .8% and school officials indicated Tuesday that a recount could be in order.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said Wednesday the board would need to petition the county for the recount. That petition would require 30 signatures and would need to be submitted to her office no later than three days from the canvass of the election, which will take place at Tuesday’s Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“If they get that in, the next step would be to form a recount board and that would consist of one person they (the board) selects, one person I select, and then a third person those two already selected would pick. And all that has to be done in a time frame – it’s pretty quick,” Fraise said.
“Then they would meet and count the ballots. They can either count them manually or use the machine.”
Fort Madison Community School District President Tim Wondra said Tuesday that the board started the recount process on Wednesday and they are in the progress of gathering signatures for the petition.
Unofficially there were 1,747 votes in favor of the referendum and 1,202 against. Social media was ablaze Tuesday night with numbers indicating that 24 more yes votes would have passed the referendum. That was the number of votes if converted to yes votes would have resulted in enough to pass the bond, not just 24 more additional Yes votes.
The absentee ballots came in at 943 Yes, and 459 No for a 67% approval. According to Nikki Sugars, the Lee County deputy auditor and elections administrator, there are currently 63 absentee ballots still unreturned. She received seven in the mail on Wednesday for a total of 70. In the unlikely event that all 70 were in favor of the referendum. That would push the Yes votes to 1817 for a total of 3019 votes. That would total 60.19%, which in theory would approve the bond. But that would require all of the absentee ballots having been postmarked by April 2, and all would need to be returned.
According to Fraise, there are also four provisional ballots in the county’s possession. Those are ballots where the voter couldn’t prove residency at the polls and they need to bring in proof of residency prior to the canvass for the votes to count.
The district has put the referendum in front of voters three different times, the last of which was June 27, 2017 when a $27 million bond failed with a 1528-1212 result with a 55.8% approval.
Absentees in that referendum had a 64.7% approval, but Tuesday saw roughly 600 more absentees generating just a 2.3% higher approval.
Another interesting contrast was voters at Grace Bible Church in Wever voted against the measure in both of the previous efforts , 81-87 in 2016 and 121-125 in June, but this time around had a majority in favor of 137-109, with the exact same number of voters as in 2017.
Voters at the West Point Library, who were taking a hit on social media for not helping carry the referendum, voted 102-175 (43.3%) in December of 2016 and 124-241 (33.9%) in June, and voted 162-293 on Tuesday (35.6%). The total voters Tuesday was 90 more than 2017 and 178 more than 2016.
The Fort Madison city polling locations have not carried the needed 60% in any of the three elections.. Only absentee voting has surpassed the required 60%.