COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County Clerk's Office told school districts this week to guard against electioneering at next Tuesday's levy elections, a follow-up to concerns raised at the school bond election in August.
"Just to remind them what the statute says," Clerk Cliff Hayes said on Thursday about the email sent to Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls and Kootenai Joint school district officials.
The email spells out Idaho Code 18-2318. On an election day, no one can pass out information, solicit signatures, conduct electioneering, obstruct polling station entry or disrupt with voters' activities within 100 feet of a polling location.
"The Secretary of State has advised us that his interpretation of the 100-feet prohibition applies to the entire building, not just to the room or door into the room which is the polling place," states the email from Pat Raffee, chief deputy clerk. "Thank you for being diligent about, and removing if need be, any levy-related signs that may be on or within 100 feet of the school buildings."
The friendly reminder stems from a minor issue in the August election, Hayes said, when voters decided on a bond to renovate aging schools in the Coeur d'Alene School District.
After his office received a call of concern, Hayes visited a Coeur d'Alene elementary school and asked for bond-related materials there to be taken down, he said.
Documents with bond information were displayed at the office and on a door, he specified.
"I can't remember exactly what was on (the documents), but it was not a 'yes vote' or a 'no vote.' It was information about the levy," Hayes said. "I felt it was better to have it removed rather than leave it up."
Clerk's Office employees also called several other schools and asked for such materials to be removed, he added.
"(The information) could be construed by some people as implying to vote a certain way," Hayes explained of his concern. "Not all people."
The Coeur d'Alene School District works with PTA groups and school principals to ensure campaign materials aren't on school properties on election days, said spokeswoman Laura Rumpler.
"We always have a very welcoming and open policy with regard to voters coming in and using our schools as polling places," Rumpler said. "We've never had campaign materials or signs up in our schools."
The documents posted during the August election were simply informational materials for parents and patrons to learn about the issue, Rumpler said.
"We voluntarily took those down, because we didn't want to have any problems, or the perception of any problems, on election day," she said.
Coeur d'Alene, Kootenai Joint and Post Falls school districts each have a supplemental maintenance and operations levy on the ballot for the March 12 election.
Only residents within those districts can vote in the election.
Hayes noted that if schools refused to remove documents that he considered electioneering, he would have to ask the county prosecutor to determine if the materials violated state law.
"I don't have that authority," Hayes said of dubbing materials illegal. "I'm not a cop. I'm a clerk."