Error in Eureka Elementary School Board Election resulted in many extra ballots being mailed

An error in the Eureka Elementary School Board Election resulted in many extra ballots being mailed. Registered voters in Trego, Fortine and Stryker recently received ballots for the Eureka Elementary School Board Election.

While Trego, Fortine, and Stryker are part of the LCHS high school district, none of the three communities are part of the elementary district (Trego and Fortine both have their own elementary school districts- Stryker is part of Trego’s School District). Consequently, residents are not eligible to vote in Eureka Elementary district elections. With a large number of people ineligible to vote receiving ballots (some of which may already have been sent in), it seems likely that this year’s election is going to be a bit complicated.

We don’t know yet how the district is going to handle this (if they’ve started opening the ballots they’ve gotten back, it’s going to be difficult to sort the valid votes from the invalid).

How did we hear about this? We (Mike) asked:

Greetings – I have received the official ballot for the school trustee election of May 4, 2021.  I would appreciate your assurance (your email is listed on the enclosure) that I am permitted to vote on the candidates for school district 13.

As a Trego resident, the elementary district in which I vote (and serve as a board member) is 53.  I recognize that Marcie Butts represents my area in the LCHS district, and that her election is by acclamation.

I may not understand (the explanation I recall is at least 50 years old) but before casting my ballot, I would like to know that I am doing so correctly.  I know that we don’t vote on Eureka elementary levies, so I would appreciate clarification – I can figure out justification both ways, but I suspect only one is correct.”

Mike McCurry (email to Onna Escobar, Eureka Public Schools)

What we’ve learned: This error originated with the county election department, which provided address labels to the Eureka School District. The error was not caused by the Eureka School District. (Eureka Public Schools and County Commissioner Josh Letcher were very helpful in providing information about the situation)

What probably happened is that ballots were issued to the registered voters in the high school district, instead of just the Eureka elementary district.

At any rate, we ought to learn more as the school decides where to go from here. In the meantime, we suspect that residents outside of the district can make life easier for the folks who have to handle this by not mailing in their (invalid) ballots.

Part of the mail-in ballot we received (for an election we cannot vote in, because we live in the Trego Elementary District)
Community, Demography

Searching Lincoln County Data

There’s a long-term question of whether North Lincoln County gets fairly treated in county services.  Back when the county was created in 1909, it made sense – everything drained into the Kootenai (except for Stryker, and driving 93 toward Kalispell makes it easy to see how that mistake was made.)  Sixty years later, Libby Dam removed the towns along the Kootenai that were the middle of the county.  Since then, Lincoln County has existed with a center that is “drive-through” and commerce from Eureka generally goes along highway 93. 

The easiest way to get the taxable values data is to search by school districts.  The Office of Public Instruction shows them, and we only need to check the 3 high schools.  This data is from the FY2021 budget reports.

Taxable ValuationPercentage
Libby District$13,407,78336.7%
LCHS (Eureka)$16,318,59244.7%
Troy$ 6,775,14618.6%
County Total$36,501,521100%

The county lists 7 school districts and taxable values are available by school district, and the 2010 Census SF1 provides population data by school districts.  Libby has a unified school district, while Eureka needs Fortine and Trego added, and Troy needs Yaak and McCormack added.  The 2010 Census Profile shows:

PopulationTotal PopulationPercentage
Libby9,8449,84450 %
Total3,58318 %
Total6,26032 %
Lincoln County19,687100%


Taking the taxable values and apportioning through the population, allows us to rank the proportion of county services each resident of the three districts funds:

High School DistrictTaxable Valuation per Capita
Lincoln County High School$1,680.77
County Average$1,586.88

The data demonstrates that the burden of funding Lincoln County’s services falls lightest on the average Libbyan, heavier on the North County, and heaviest on the Trojans.   Demonstrating that the North County receives less service requires a different method of extracting data.