Judge invalidates disputed ballots in Minnesota school bond election

Judge invalidates disputed ballots in Minnesota school bond election

Disputed ballots could have turned victory into defeat for the Washington County district's $96 million bond proposal.

Five disputed ballots that could have overturned a Minnesota school district's $96 million bond referendum will not be counted, a judge has ruled.

The South Washington County Bulletin reports that the ruling means that for now, the Nov. 3 vote for South Washington School District's bond proposal is 6,840 in favor and 6,835 opposed. Opponents of the bond issue who brought the legal challenge say they may appeal the latest ruling.

Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that the disputed ballots should not be counted because she could not determine the intent behind the markings voters made on those ballots.

"Ballots that will not be counted as a result of this Court's order have markings that make it impossible to determine the voter's intent," Gearin wrote.

A canvassing board had previously rejected the disputed ballots.

South Washington County School Superintendent Keith Jacobus says the district plans to move forward with the projects that the bond funds will pay for—a new middle school, updates of three existing middle schools, and convert an existing middle school to an elementary campus.

"We are pleased with the ruling of the court and will continue our plans to move forward with the projects as approved in our bond question pending a possible appeal,” Jacobus says. “The election process is very complicated and the greatest lesson we’ve all learned throughout is that each and every vote counts.”

The district is hoping it will be allowed in February to begin selling the bonds authorized in the election. School officials warn that if an appeal of the court ruling delays the sale, the cost of the construction projects could rise.

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