recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays neatly sliced through a Gordian knot regarding the Unified School Board’s future composition. Now another ruling, this one by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, has snarled the issue again.
In the first instance, Mays postponed by a year the planned expansion of the Unified Board from 7 to 13 members, thus extricating the County Commission from the puzzle of how — and when — to reconfigure the District 6 seat vacated by Reginald Porter, who resigned it to become the school system’s new chief of staff.
In the latest case, however, Armstrong ruled that a new election had to be held for the District 4 seat occupied by Kevin Woods since the August 2012 elections for the 7-member board. Woods was the apparent winner — by a 106-vote margin that was later adjudged to be 290 votes — over Kenneth Whalum Jr., but Whalum had sued, contending that wrong ballots issued by the Election Commission had skewed the results, and Armstrong agreed.
In his opinion, issued Monday, Armstrong declared:
“…. The Election Commission here made no concerted effort to avoid the problems that occurred in this election for school board positions….
“These mistakes in assigning so many voters to incorrect school board districts cannot be simply ignored in an effort by the Court to not take then step of declaring an election invalid. Without a new election conducted properly, there will always be legitimate questions about the actual winner in the District 4 county school board race….
“The District 4 race is under the facts here incurably uncertain when all voters are considered and leaves the Court no alternative except to order a new election in this race.”
Hence, it is up to the Election Commission — with a new black eye, or with its former black eye newly exposed — to schedule a new election for District 6. Both Woods and Whalum have indicated they would vie again in such an election.
But that new election could be delayed indefinitely by an appeal from Woods.
Meanwhile, the County Commission has set a date of August 23 for applicants to seek the vacated District 6 seat, will interview those applicants on August 29, and make an appointment on September 9.
That part seems simple enough.