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Mistake on school board election ballot discovered
North Crawford
North Crawford

NORTH CRAWFORD - A mistake has been made on the 2022 North Crawford School Board spring ballot, the school district acknowledged last week.

North Crawford School District Administrator Brandon Munson told the Independent-Scout that a clerical error had been made in the election process. 

Following inquiries about the ballot from the Independent-Scout, the district contacted the Wisconsin Elections Board seeking advice on the situation. The district was told to proceed with the election with the ballot that has been created.

“They told us to go with what we had, since it is past all deadlines to correct it,” Munson said. “It will be addressed by the board after the April election.”

The North Crawford School District later clarified the situation even further in an official statement.

District administrator Brandon Munson confirmed, there are five candidates, running for two seats on the current ballot. One position is a three-year term and the other is a one-year term.

It appears that the ballot should include not one, but two three-year terms and the one one-year term, according to research done by the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout.

“We consulted with the WEC and they instructed us to proceed and hold a primary election,” Munson explained in a written statement last Thursday. “The position that should have been… (on the ballot) in the election will end as of April 24, 2022. Depending on the decision of the (North Crawford) School Board, someone will be appointed to the position, the position will remain vacant, or a special election will be held to fill the position.”

The position that will end on April 24, 2022 is currently a board seat held by Jesse Swenson. The initial clerical error that resulted in this situation occurred in the 2021 school board election. On that ballot there was a two-year term added to the two regularly scheduled three-year terms. The two-year term offered on the 2021 ballot actually should have been a one-year term to fill out the last year of three-year term initially won by Tanya Forkash in 2019.

The appointments, elections and resignations of three school board members in a short period of time resulted in confusion over the terms being served. This ultimately led to the ballot error in the 2021 election, which created a subsequent error in the 2022 ballot.

So, what happened?

Perhaps, a good place to start is the 2018 school board election, where Jesse Swenson was elected in April and resigned in May to serve as the girls track coach.

The board decided to appoint someone to serve out that term until the remainder of the position could be added to the 2019 ballot. 

The board nominated four people, each seeking the appointment. After eight ballots the board settled on appointing Tanya Forkash to serve Swenson’s vacated position until the remaining two years of the term could be filled in the 2019 board election.

So in the 2019 board election in April, there were two three-year terms and one two-year term. There were five candidates. 

Forkash got the most votes with 425 and Kuhn was next with 416–both candidates got three-year terms that would’ve been up for election in 2022. Incumbent board member Terry O’Donnell got 388 votes and won a two-year term. The other candidates were Stefonek with 269 votes and Heisz with 354 votes.

Then in September of 2019,  just five months into her new three-year term Forkash resigned and the board appointed Stefonek to serve until the 2020 election.

In the 2020 election, there were two three-year terms and one two-year term and four candidates. Forkash, who had decided to run again after resigning in September, got 579 votes and one of the three-year terms; Heisz got 521 votes and the other three-year term. Jill Stefonek got 487 votes and the two-year term-that was the remainder of Forkash's 2019 term. The fourth candidate Wade Dull got 422 votes. Both three-year terms will expire in 2023 and the two-year term was set to expire in 2022.

However, Stefonek moved out of the district later 2020 and had to resign from the board. The board discussed the situation and decided to not appoint anyone and fill the remainder of the term in the 2021 election.

At this point, the clerical error occured on the 2021 ballot. The 2021 election offered three three-year terms. It should also have offered a one-year term to fill out the remaining year of Stefonek's term, filling out the 2019 term of Forkash, which was set to expire in 2022. Instead the ballot listed the fourth position as a two-year term, putting its expiration date in 2023. Six candidates vied for the four positions. The incumbents won the top three positions and won the three-year terms. Terry O’Donnell got 406 votes; Judy Powell got 390 votes and Jim Dworschack got 370 votes. Jesse Swenson got 329 votes and believed she had won the two-year position listed on the ballot. Unfortunately,  the position was listed incorrectly and should’ve been a one-year position that expires in 2022 and would provide the other three-year term.

So, the ballot error in 2021 listing the term from 2019 as a two-year term created an error in the 2022 ballot because it resulted in omitting the second three-year term that should be available.

Wait there’s more. Because her family moved out of the district, Forkash was forced to resign in 2021 from the three-year term she won in the 2020 election. The board considered appointing several candidates to fill out the term until the 2022 election and settled on Jerry Coleman.

So the ballot as it stands offers two positions–the three-year term and the one-year term.

Since there are five candidates running (more than two per position) a primary election is scheduled for February 15. The top four vote-getters will appear on the April ballot. The five candidates on the primary ballot are Mary Kuhn, Melany Jelinek, Kimberly Blaha, Charissa Anne Richter and Jerry Coleman.

After the April election the newly constituted board will tackle the problem created by the three-year term not being included on the 2022 ballot and the position that board member Jesse Swenson holds now will terminate on April 24, 2022, according to the district.