Special election will decide 5th District board seat

Published 6:29 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Mower County Commissioners officially decided to hold a special election on Feb. 10 to fill Mower County’s 5th District seat left vacant by the death of Commissioner David Tollefson.

A notice of the vacancy was published today. People interested in filling the vacancy can file an affidavit of candidacy at the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office in the Mower County Government Center between 8 a.m. on Dec. 22 and 5 p.m. on Dec. 30. Candidates need to be a resident of the 5th District for at least 30 days prior to the special election.

State statute dictates that a seat with more than a year left on the term be filled by special election. If less than a year remains on the term, the vacancy can be filled through appointment.

The district five seat missed the cutoff to qualify for an appointment by less than a month.

The commissioners discussed appealing to the secretary of state’s office, but decided it was best to move along with the special election. There was concern an appeal would delay the special election.

The polling places for the Feb. 10 special election will be Southgate Elementary School and Austin High School. Polling is expected to be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If more than two candidates file an affidavit, a special primary would be held on Jan. 20.

Absentee voting is scheduled for the Saturday before the special election on Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Absentee voting for the special primary would be held Jan. 16 if necessary.

The special election has to be held between 30 and 90 days after the becomes vacant, which would be between about Jan. 4 and March 4.

Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh is working to minimize the costs of the election. One planned measure to save costs will be to hand count the ballots rather than renting a machine.

A rough estimate shows the election would cost about $8,816 with a hand count and about $9,878 if the electronic machine was used. Those cost estimates include supplies, advertising, programing, overtime, election judges and employee overtime. It doesn’t include the cost of time salaried employees would spend working leading up to the election.

If a special primary wasn’t needed, costs would be roughly cut in half, Groh said.

Despite the decision to hand count ballots, a machine will still be required for disabled voters.

The cost of the election will be split between the 2009 and 2010 budgets. The affect to the budgets will be minimized because Groh said his departments had money left over from 2009, and he’s expecting money from the schools from help in the November 2009 elections.

While he doesn’t expect to have to request more funding from the board this year, Groh said he may have to request more money by the time of the 2010 elections in November.