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Education

Issues Arise in Kalispell School Board Election

Steven Biggs is unable to serve as trustee due to residency; school district scrambles to fix ballot mailing issues

By Micah Drew
School District 5 offices in downtown Kalispell. Beacon file photo

Ballots for the Kalispell Public Schools (KPS) election have already been mailed out and with the deadline to return them on May 3 fast approaching the state of one race has changed.

There are two open seats for three-year terms to serve as at-large elementary school trustees for the KPS school board and four candidates vying for the positions: incumbent Ursula Wilde, and newcomers Dana Bennett, Jennifer Sevier and Steven Biggs.

On Thursday KPS business services director Denise Williams, who oversees the district election, informed Biggs that he was ineligible to serve as an elementary trustee because he does not live in the district.

According to his election paperwork, Biggs claimed residence at his business address in Kalispell. When Williams, as the election administrator, called the Flathead County elections office to confirm his voter registration, she was told Biggs was registered to vote at a different address, one that is in the West Valley Elementary district.

Williams informed Biggs on March 21 that he couldn’t serve as an elementary trustee due to his home address and he responded that he lived in an apartment located within the Kalispell elementary district and planned to have his voter registration updated. On March 23 the county elections office confirmed the update.

A citizen submitted an official challenge to Biggs’ voter registration, which included a property record from Montana Cadastral showing Biggs’ business property had no living units listed, prompting Williams to seek guidance from the county attorney.

While Biggs remains on the ballot, Williams said that “if Dr. Biggs is elected, he will be unable to serve as a trustee.”

Biggs could not be reached for comment.

Williams said the district recently identified other problems with the election stemming from a misreading of county voter precincts that lead to some residents receiving too few, or too many ballots.

School district elections are confusing because voters receive multiple ballots based on where they live — all district residents should receive a high school levy ballot, some will receive an elementary school trustee ballot, and a select few in Lakeside, Somers and Kila will receive a high school trustee ballot.

According to Williams some county voting precincts are split between elementary and high school districts, which led to the confusion. The affected precincts are 6, 7, 19, 24, 29, 31, 33, and 34, where some voters were wrongly sent a high school and elementary trustee ballot, while voters in 19, 29, 33 and 34 were not sent an elementary trustee ballot.

The district sent a letter to the roughly 1,700 affected voters on April 22. If voters have already mailed or delivered their ballot, election officials will track it and set it aside to allow the opportunity to fix the issues.

Ballots are due to the district office by 8 p.m. May 3, but until then voters can contact the district office at 406-751-3412 or email denise.williams@sd5.k12.mt.us

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