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"No" votes outnumber "Yes" votes by four--with 15 absentee ballots out

Posted: Tue, May 1, 2018 8:59 PM

(Analysis by's Paul Scott)

Almost 2,800 City of Decorah residents went to the polls in the May 1st referendum on whether the city should establish a municipal electric utility.  When all the ballots had been counted, there were 1,380 "Yes" votes and 1,384 "No" votes.

County Auditor Ben Steines says the official results of Tuesday's election won't be known until 12:00 noon on Monday, when county supervisors conduct their official canvas.  15 absentee ballots have not been received yet.  The ballots must be postmarked as of Monday, April 30th, in order to be counted.

The virtual tie will make life interesting for members of the Decorah City Council.  Even assuming there are five more "Yes" absentee ballots than "No" absentee ballots, the results would leave the city council having to make a decision on whether to proceed with a project supported by half the community--and opposed by the other half.  If the absentee ballots split evenly or if some of the absentee ballots are not received, the ballot referendum will be declared as to have failed.  But the more interesting question will be what will happen if the referendum finally passes--by a one or two vote margin out of 2,760 or more votes cast.