Challenge filed in South Washington County school levy vote; five disputed votes could defeat the measure

A court challenge of a school levy vote in South Washington County has been filed over five disputed ballots.

If successful, it would overturn the passage of a $96.5 million levy planned for construction of a middle school, the conversion of Oltman Middle School into an elementary and renovations at other district middle schools.

The five ballots in question should have been interpreted as “no” votes, the challengers say. After a recount last month, the canvassing board ruled that the measure had passed by five votes. A tie would mean the measure fails.

In the November election, school district voters had three questions on the ballot. They approved a $10 million a year increase to the district’s operating levy and rejected a levy that would have raised $46.5 million to renovate and expand elementary and high schools.

According to the Pioneer Press, the initial results showed the $96.5 million levy question passing by 19 votes, but a recount found 19 ballots in question. The canvassing board accepted 14 of those as “no” votes but rejected the other five.

An attorney for the challengers said the remaining five also should be accepted as “no” votes; on four of them, the voters filled in the “o” in the word “No” rather than the oval to the left, and on the fifth, the voter crossed out a “Yes” vote and filled in the “No” oval.

There will be a hearing on the matter within 20 days.

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