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HAWTHORNE : Officials Won't Ask Judge to Inspect School Bond Ballots


Hawthorne School District officials, who lost a recount effort to pass a $15-million bond initiative, are no longer considering taking the matter before a judge. Officials were considering challenging the recount until late Tuesday but decided against it after determining the chances were of winning were slim.

"We didn't have enough yes votes we were sure of," said district Supt. Christa Metzger.

Officials who sat in on the recount were considering contesting 42 ballots, school board member Shirley Duff said. Duff, who asked for the recount after Proposition B lost by 18 votes in the June 7 election, said some of the ballots showed an intent to vote for the measure, although the perforations on the ballots were not completely detached.

State guidelines recommend that at least three sides of a ballot's rectangular perforation be pushed for the vote to be counted, said Pricilla Smith, manager of election services for the county.

Lawyers for the district had said that under recent legal precedents, the vote might count even if the tab has not been detached, as long as some intent is shown.

In similar cases, judges have ruled that light impressions that did not completely punch out the tabs showed intent to vote, said Fredric D. Woocher, an attorney advising the district on the matter.

Duff, who observed the on July 7 recount, said she thinks at least 10 of the ballots being challenged showed the voters intended to vote for the proposition.

Half of the 42 ballots were not counted in the original tabulation. Some of those disputed ballots were not counted because they had been cast at the wrong polling stations, Duff said. The recount cost the citizens group that sponsored the Proposition B campaign the remainder of its funds--about $1,200. Any further actions would come out of district funds or private contributions, Metzger said.

In the June election, Proposition B gained 66.16% of the vote--0.5% shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure, according to the county registrar's office. The vote was 2,491 in favor, 1,274 against.

The $15-million bond issue would be used to fund major renovations of local school buildings. Many of the buildings are more than 40 years old and have extensive problems with plumbing, locks and windows, said Pamela Fees, director of business services for the district. The funds would also allow the construction of permanent buildings in place of the portable classrooms in use on some campuses, Fees said.

The bond issue would be paid back over 25 years by an average $20 annual property tax increase for Hawthorne residents, Fees said.

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