SODA SPRINGS — Before Caribou County could close the books on Tuesday’s primary election the sheriff had to get involved. It wasn’t because of rowdy voters at the polls, but missing ballots.
As Tuesday grew closer to midnight, only eight of 10 precincts had been counted and in Bancroft, a bond issue for a new school in the North Gem School District was at stake. Caribou County Sheriff Ric Anderson was in the county courthouse and volunteered to hunt down the missing vote totals from two precincts.
Anderson drove over to one polling place at a school in Soda Springs, but the doors were locked and the lights were off. He headed back to the courthouse.
“There was so much confusion,” Anderson said about the vote counting process. “It turned out those ballots were already in the courthouse locked up.”
Part of the confusion came from the fact that retiring county clerk Veda Mascarenas had to hire inexperienced help because many of the experienced deputy clerks in Caribou County were running for office in the primary.
As candidates, they couldn’t be involved in the counting process.
The Bancroft ballots had been held up because the $4.8 million school bond required 66.6 percent voter approval and it was a close vote. People working at the polls counted all the ballots several times.
“They were just making sure they hit 290 yes votes and it turned out that’s exactly what they had,” Sheriff Anderson said. The vote was 290 to 135.
The school bond had failed two previous times by two votes. Once the ballots from all precincts were counted and tabulated, winners in three county seat races on the Republican ticket, with no Democrats running for any of those offices in the primary, were declared.
In the District 2 county commission race, incumbent Earl Somsen slipped past Tysen Hopkins 879 to 795. In the GOP battle for county treasurer, Alliance Title employee Angie Mendenhall won with 920 votes compared to 431 for Susan Speelman and 311 for Sharon Wells. After Mascarenas retires in January, her deputy clerk Denise Horsley will take over after receiving 643 votes compared to Shelley Reeves with 606 and Terri Stephens, 422.
“There were some close races,” Sheriff Anderson said.