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Dist. 7 candidate Hart seeks special election; claims unlawful strike-off

'Hart’s candidacy was compromised and irretrievably damaged ...' claims suit

Phil Hart

Phil Hart

— A Kellogg man claims he was unlawfully struck off the Republican primary ballot in the May race for Dist. 7A House and is seeking recourse through a special election.

Phil Hart filed a notice of contest with the district court in Idaho County on June 4, seeking relief through the Election Contest Act. A hearing in this case has not yet been set.

Hart ran against Paul Shepherd of Riggins in the May 15 primary election, losing to the incumbent 2,253 to 3,197, and receiving 41.3 percent of the vote across the four-county district. In Idaho County, Hart received 44 percent (987) and Shepherd 55 percent (1,749).

Less than a month before the election, Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denny informed Hart in an April 24 letter the Kellogg resident was ineligible to run for the Dist. 7B seat as he did not meet state residency requirements — candidates must be an elector in the district or county for at least a year before the election in order to qualify for the ballot. County clerks offices within District 7 were informed to mark Hart’s name out and that votes for him should not be counted.

More than a week later, May 7, the secretary of state reversed that decision, due to a similar situation involving Kathy Sims, a candidate in Dist. 5, that ended with a restraining order requiring Kootenai County to stop marking Sims off the ballot and count votes for her. It was determined, “both candidates be treated the same,” according to Timothy Hurst, chief deputy, Idaho SOS, that Hart’s name be no longer crossed off on the ballot, and to “count and report any votes he receives….”

In his eight-page filing, Hart states he was rightfully an eligible Dist. 7B candidate, certified by the Idaho SOS pursuant to Idaho code, and there was no statutory or other legal authority to declare him ineligible nor direct the Idaho County clerk to remove his name from the ballots.

Hart’s notice stated, pursuant to a public records request submitted May 16, he obtained Idaho County copies of the absentee ballots cast in his race. His request found 424 ballots cast, of which 96 were for Hart, 184 for Shepherd, and 39 with no vote for either. Of the 424 ballots, 101 had Hart’s name crossed out, according to the notice.

Hart states the resulting news and social media coverage regarding this had a deleterious effect on the viability of his candidacy and campaign for seeking office. In one listed example, witness reported they were told by election authorities Hart was ineligible and contemplated votes for him would not count, causing them not to vote for him.

“Due to the unlawful actions of the Idaho Secretary of State,” according to the notice, “Hart’s candidacy was compromised and irretrievably damaged by not only voter suppression but also his ability to raise crucial campaign funds….”

In his notice, Hart seeks a special election, pursuant to Idaho code 34-2119(5), and recovery of costs and attorney fees.


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