The complicated math of the West Ada recall campaign

If critics pursue their recall campaign against five West Ada school trustees, how will it work?

The simple answer: It’s complicated.

Here’s the explanation from Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane.

The first hurdle is getting the recall question on the ballot. The Recall West Ada parents’ group would have 75 days to collect signatures, totaling 50 percent of the votes cast in most recent trustee elections.

Those thresholds vary widely.

When Philip Neuhoff was elected to the board in May 2015, only 931 people voted in his district. (He was unopposed in 2019, so he didn’t appear on the ballot, making 2015 his most recent election.)

When Amy Johnson was elected in 2019, 5,155 people voted in her race. She ran in November, in conjunction with municipal elections, under a recent state law that moved school board races to the fall. The purpose of that law was to increase voter turnout, and the numbers certainly suggest it worked. But it also means it would be significantly more difficult to recall Johnson.

The three remaining trustees — Chairman Ed Klopfenstein, Steve Smylie and Rene Ozuna — fall somewhere in the middle. The most recent election in their zones occurred in May 2016, when voters recalled two West Ada trustees. The numbers vary a bit; 2,974 people voted in Klopfenstein’s zone, 3,557 voted in Smylie’s zone, and 2,805 voted in Ozuna’s zone.

If the recall question gets on the ballot, most likely in March, then it’s up to the voters.

The first requirement is simple. A majority of voters have to support the recall.

But then there’s another wrinkle. The number of votes for recall have to exceed the number of votes an officeholder received in the last election. In Johnson’s case, that threshold is 2,960 — the number of votes she received when she unseated Mike Vuittonet in November 2019.

But this requirement applies only in Johnson’s race, since the other four trustees have never faced an opponent. In their case, a simple majority is all it takes for a recall.




Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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