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Deadline missed for election change

Daily Inter Lake | September 10, 2021 7:00 AM

Attempts to revisit a decision to hold a poll election quietly faded this week after Libby officials learned they had missed the deadline to switch to a mail-in vote.

Despite lobbying from county officials, who oversee municipal elections, Libby City Council voted 4-1 Aug. 2 against holding a mail-in election. But City Councilor Gary Beach raised the question anew later in the month after learning a poll election would cost an additional $4,000 to $6,000.

After a spirited debate, city councilors opted to table the issue on Aug. 16. City Councilor Rob Dufficy made the motion to hold off, asking for additional time to speak with constituents. They planned to take it up again at the council’s scheduled Sept. 7 meeting.

In the meantime, the possible switch to a mail-in ballot caused teeth gnashing among candidates on the fall ballot and sturm and drang on local social media. At least one city council candidate accused sitting elected officials of trying to use the mail-in method to steal the election.

It all came to naught, though. City councilors were operating under the belief they had 55 days before the election to pass a final decision to county employees. City Clerk and Treasurer Samuel Sikes said on Sept. 7, the date councilors were expected to revisit the question, that officials belatedly learned the deadline was 70 days prior to the election.

Eureka and Troy, which both will hold municipal elections this year, had opted for a mail-in election. County Election Administrator Paula Buff said taking the mail-in route saved on costs. About 62 percent of Libby voters cast absentee ballots already, she said last month.

The fall ballot will feature mayoral and city council races. In the former, Mayor Peggy Williams is running against City Councilor Hugh Taylor and resident Kenny Rayome Jr. The race for three seats on the city council is more crowded. Dufficy and fellow incumbents Gary Beach and Kristin Smith are vying with Melissa Berke, Zacharia McNew and Darrel “DC” Orr.