MOSES LAKE -- The drama of the $135 million Moses Lake School construction bond continues.
A group of Moses Lake School District voters have filed an appeal of last month's ruling from Grant County Superior Court Judge John Antosz upholding the results of the February election and recount, which had the bond passing with a bare 60.03 percent -- or three votes.
"We believe the court erred in its original decision," said George Ahrend, a Moses Lake attorney representing the petitioners. "The basis was the county auditor's failure to call those whose ballots had missing signatures, and that removed over 31 ballots."
Those ballots, Ahrend said, were enough to determine the outcome of the bond vote.
On March 20, Judge Antosz ruled in favor of the county -- and by extension, the school district -- when he found that county elections workers "substantially complied" with the law despite failing to follow up letters to voters with mismatched or missing signatures on their ballots.
Ahrend told the Columbia Basin Herald that he has filed a notice of appeal with the state's Third District Appellate Court, and that all the parties involved have agreed to "an expedited appeal" process, though no date for a hearing has been set yet.
"We're doing everything we can to make this happen quickly," Ahrend said.
Gary Ash, one of the petitioners represented by Ahrend, said he still has doubts about the validity of the initial certification and the recount, and that the number of ballots that were "yes" as opposed to "no" in the final day or two of the original ballot count didn't seem statistically plausible to him.
"I'm concerned about the sudden shift in the outcome of the election," Ash said. "That's why we had a lot of hope in the recount."
Ash is also accusing the Moses Lake School District of actively intervening in the initial count "with public resources," obtaining a list of 80 voters with disputed ballots and encouraging those they were confident had voted "yes" to come in and clarify that with the County Auditor.
However, outgoing Moses Lake School Superintendent Michelle Price said no public time or resources were used when the bond's campaign committee legally obtained daily reports using public records requests from the auditor's office and then followed up with prospective "yes" voters during 10-day period the ballots were counted and the election was certified.
"We made sure that voters who were challenged got their forms," Price said, noting that Quincy school officials engaged in exactly the same practice last year. "It was a legal process."