Idaho Falls trustee files for a recount after single-vote loss

IDAHO FALLS — After losing her seat by a single vote in last week’s election, incumbent Idaho Falls School Board Trustee Elizabeth Cogliati officially requested a recount Tuesday morning. 

“If it’s one vote difference, I think that we all deserve a recount to make sure that it was all counted correctly,” said Cogliati, who lost to real estate agent Shay Ricks by a tally of 359-358

Ricks agreed: “I was absolutely shocked about the single vote difference. And as far as a recount goes, I think Elizabeth is entitled to a recount and I think her constituents deserve a recount.”

Elizabeth Cogliati, a trustee on the Idaho Falls School Board.
Shay Ricks, who won the recent trustee race by a single vote.

The local sheriff locked up the ballots Tuesday morning, and the recount will likely be held on Nov. 27, according to Penny Manning, the Bonneville County Clerk. Manning said the recount will be free — as is the case with any election outcomes that are within five votes

How the recount will work:
Recount: On an agreed-upon day (likely Nov. 27), the sheriff, county prosecutor, election workers, election staff, and anyone else who would like to be present will gather to tally the votes. That will include both a hand count and a tabulator count.
Results upheld: If the results are upheld, Ricks will join the board in January.
Results overturned: If Cogliati were found to win, she would stay on the board for another term.
Tie: If there’s a tie, the board of trustees would determine the winner by coin toss, according to Idaho code 33-503.
Appeal: Any person can appeal the results of a recount. In the case of school district election recounts, the prosecuting attorney will be the “final authority concerning any question that arises during the recount,” according to Idaho code 34-2305. 

Cogliati said her close race demonstrates the importance of voting in local elections: “One vote can make a big difference.”

Cogliati has served on the board for four years, overseeing a tumultuous period for the Idaho Falls School District that was marked by the pandemic; leadership changes (including three different superintendents); a failed $250 million bond; and continued litigation over a challenged plant facilities levy and allegations that district officials inappropriately advocated for a bond. 

But Cogliati said she was excited about the district’s recent adoption of a new English language arts curriculum, and about new superintendent Karla LaOrange. 

“I wanted to continue the work that we have been doing on the school board … and wanted to see all that through,” she said. 

Cogliati currently volunteers as the director of education and board secretary for Happyville Farm, a nonprofit that grows food for low-income families and provides and promotes educational opportunities. 

Ricks said he became interested in the school district a few years ago when he attended a virtual open house and asked then-Superintendent James Shank about the possibility of creating a dual language immersion program, and felt that his idea was dismissed. 

Ricks said he still wants to explore that possibility, and also wants to “increase the quality of the education that students are receiving.”

Under the guidance of LaOrange, the district is starting to implement some programs that offer opportunities for community and parent involvement, “which I think is going to help increase our test scores,” Ricks said. “I’m looking forward to helping enhance those outreach programs.”

Ricks is also a parent, and his eldest child will become a student in the district next fall. 

In the district’s two other trustee races, incumbents Hillary Radcliffe and Jeremy Westwood held their seats with 55% and 62% of votes, respectively.

The recount will be the first in Bonneville County since May 2015, when the Bonneville School District’s $56.1 million bond for a new high school was just 17 votes short of the required supermajority, Manning said. The bond’s failure was upheld. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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