Idaho school board recall elections scheduled

Recall elections seeking to remove three of the five members of the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District No. 25 board of trustees in Idaho have been scheduled for March 9, 2021. The recall ballots will ask voters if they are in favor of recalling Zone 1 Representative Jackie Cranor, Zone 2 Representative Janie Gebhardt, and Zone 5 Representative Dave Mattson.

The recall effort began on Sept. 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. The petition signatures were verified by the Bannock County Elections Office on Dec. 10. Cranor, Gebhardt, and Mattson had until Dec. 17 to step down or face the recall election. None of the board members stepped down. 

In order for the recall elections to be successful, the total number of votes cast in favor of recall must be equal to or greater than the number of votes that first put the board members in office. The recall against Cranor needs at least 279 votes, the recall against Gebhardt needs at least 417 votes, and the recall against Mattson needs at least 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 a reason for recall. The effort in the West Ada School District did not go to a vote but saw two members resign from their positions. The recall effort against Aaron Proctor in the Whitepine School District went to the ballot on Nov. 3 and was approved with 57% of the vote, resulting in Proctor’s removal from office. The effort in the Idaho Falls School District is still ongoing.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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