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City to recount School Board votes next week

Thirteen citizens, including teachers, call for new election tally

Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2003

The city will recount the votes for the Juneau School Board next Wednesday.

Incumbent Alan Schorr defeated William Peters by one vote for one of five open School Board seats, according to official results certified Tuesday.

Thirteen citizens, many of whom are teachers, applied for the recount Wednesday afternoon, and within a few minutes the city approved the minimally required 10 signatures. Peters had declined to request a recount.

City Clerk Laurie Sica said the recount would start at 9 a.m. Oct. 22 and should conclude in the afternoon. Sica said she will recount the ballots by running them through the Accu-Vote machines again. That's the way the 9,633 ballots were tallied originally.

The School Board was scheduled to swear in its new members at its next regularly scheduled meeting, which is on Oct. 21, a day before the recount. It wasn't immediately clear whether Schorr would be sworn in.

Schorr, reached Wednesday afternoon, had no comment on the recount. Peters, who said he didn't even ask who had requested the recount, said: "I am looking forward to when the dust settles."

Sara Hannan, a Juneau-Douglas High School teacher of American government, was one of the citizens who applied for a recount.

"I was interested in seeing it recounted to make sure we got an accurate count," she said. "There's an error factor when you tally votes."

Hannan also said that some of the recount applicants had opposed the candidacy of Schorr, who was one of two incumbents running for re-election. School Board President Chuck Cohen did not win re-election.

Teachers and the school district have been involved in contentious contract negotiations this year that still haven't concluded, and teachers have talked about a strike.

"We were looking for a change," Hannan said of some voters, including herself. "A change at the School Board - get the incumbents off, get some new leadership. ... The employees at the district level don't have the ability to form walking orders without the School Board. If that's what has to happen to resolve it, then change in the School Board is what we need."

JDHS English teacher Bill Chalmers, who also requested the recount, said his concern was simply to see an accurate count.

"I would have requested it if it had gone the other way," Chalmers said. "I don't have any particular bones to pick."

Chalmers said he would prefer that the ballots be counted by hand because the Accu-Vote machines might not register everyone's vote. The machines detect the marks that voters place in ovals next to candidates' names.

But City Clerk Sica said the machines are more accurate and quicker than a hand-count. Because the margin of votes between Schorr and Peters is within 10 votes, by ordinance the city will bear the expense of the recount. A figure wasn't immediately available.

Schorr ended up with 2,876 votes, and Peters with 2,875, in the official results released Tuesday. The winner, as the fifth-highest vote-getter for the School Board, will serve for one year to complete the term of a member who resigned.

The other newly won seats on the School Board won't be affected by a recount. Andi Story, Phyllis Carlson, Julie Morris and Rhonda Befort all have at least several hundred more votes than do Schorr and Peters. And Cohen, the candidate who trailed Schorr and Peters, has about 320 fewer votes than they do.

For teacher Chalmers, the election has been a lesson in the importance of voting.

"My students were in awe of the fact that one vote can really count," he said. "I kind of got them to commit to never miss an election in their lives."

• Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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