Idaho school board recall election scheduled for Mar. 9

A recall election seeking to remove Elizabeth Cogliati from her position as the Zone 4 representative on the Idaho Falls School District 91 board of trustees in Idaho is being held on March 9, 2021.

Recall supporters initially sought to recall three of the five members of the board. In addition to Cogliati, Chairman and Zone 3 representative Lara Hill and Zone 5 representative Hillary Radcliffe were named in the recall petitions. Signatures for the recall of Hill and Cogliati were both submitted on December 28, 2020, but the Bonneville County Clerk’s Office found that the petition against Hill did not have enough valid signatures to be placed on the ballot. The effort against Radcliffe did not submit the petition by the deadline.

The recall efforts began after the board of trustees voted 3-2 on September 30, 2020, to move high schools in the district from in-person instruction five days a week to a mix of in-person instruction two days a week and online instruction the other three days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hill, Radcliffe, and Cogliati voted in favor of the change in instruction, while trustees Paul Haacke and Larry Haws voted against.

Superintendent George Boland said the goal for the change in instruction was to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and related quarantines and absences at the high schools. The school district had reported 90 coronavirus cases among students and staff between the beginning of the school year and October 9, 2020. Recall supporters said the district’s online classes were of low quality and putting students at a disadvantage.

Hill was first appointed to the board of trustees in September 2018 and later elected in November 2019. Radcliffe was appointed to the board in June 2019, and Cogliati was elected to the board in November 2019.

To get the recall against Hill on the ballot, supporters had to collect at least 480 signatures from registered voters. To get the recall against Radcliffe on the ballot, supporters had to collect at least 1,400 signatures. To get the recall against Cogliati on the ballot, supporters had to collect at least 280 signatures. The number of signatures needed was equal to 50% of the votes cast at the last election in the zone the trustees represent. Signatures had to be collected within 75 days.

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. 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 November 3 and was approved with 57% of the vote, resulting in Proctor’s removal from office. The recall effort against three board members in the Pocatello-Chubbuck school district was approved for the ballot, and the elections were also scheduled for March 9.

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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