Idaho county verifies school board recall petition signatures

Petition signatures to recall three of the five members of the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District No. 25 board of trustees in Idaho were verified by the Bannock County Elections Office on December 10, 2020. Zone 1 representative Jackie Cranor, Zone 2 representative Janie Gebhardt, and Zone 5 representative Dave Mattson have until December 17 to step down or else face the recall election.

The recall effort began on September 18, 2020, when recall supporters filed paperwork with the Bannock County Elections Office after the board unanimously voted to continue using a hybrid teaching model (two days in-person and three days online) for middle school and high school students for the remainder of the first trimester of the 2020-2021 school year. The district started the hybrid model due to the COVID-19 pandemic and continued using it into the second trimester.

Recall supporters said the board was not fully representing the electorate on the issue of hybrid learning and other issues. The school district released a statement saying that the board weighs a number of factors when making decisions and that majority opinion does not always rule.

To get the recall effort against Cranor on the ballot, supporters had to collect 164 signatures from registered voters in Zone 1. To get the recall effort against Gebhardt on the ballot, supporters had to collect 351 signatures from Zone 2, and to recall Mattson, they had to collect 206 signatures from Zone 5. All of the petition signatures had to be submitted by December 1. If the board members face the recall election, at least as many voters who first put them in office must vote to recall them in order for the recall election to be successful. The recall against Cranor would need 279 votes, the recall against Gebhardt would need 417 votes, and the recall against Mattson would need 278 votes.

Cranor, Gebhardt, and Mattson were also included in a 2018 recall effort against all five members who served on the board at the time. That effort started after the board voted to end the district’s 20-year-old open enrollment policy that allowed students to choose which high school they attended. The leader of that recall put the effort on hold before the deadline to submit petitions.

Recall efforts against school board members started in three other school districts in Idaho in 2020. All of the efforts named their school board’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for recall. Efforts in the Idaho Falls and West Ada school districts are still ongoing, while a recall effort against Aaron Proctor in the Whitepine School District went to the ballot on November 3. The recall election was approved with 57% of the vote, and Proctor was removed from office.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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