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Judge nullifies Kalispell election results, leaving city council with questions

Kalispell City Council
Posted at 12:53 PM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 14:53:59-05

KALISPELL — A Flathead County judge has issued a ruling to nullify two of the four Kalispell city council elections following incorrect ballot distribution during the election in November.

However, there are still many unanswered questions.

A judge ruled on Feb. 16, 2024, to nullify the results of the election of Kalispell city councilors for Ward 1 and Ward 2.

“So we're starting now working with the county attorney's office and their elections department is they're trying to work with the courts to get some clarification on what exactly that means for our current city council members,” said Doug Russell Kalispell city manager.

While the city is trying to navigate this unprecedented issue, the two city councilors who were affected by the ruling recused themselves from voting at the last city council meeting.

“They did step down from the dais last Monday when we got the initial results. We just didn't want to put anything in jeopardy in terms of any decisions. But for right now, as far as we're concerned, they're still active council members, but we do appreciate their awareness of the situation to not participate in any votes last week. And I think that's just the appropriate action to take while we're waiting for that clarification from the courts,” said Russell.

The Flathead County Elections Office does not know when the reelection will take place.

The city is hoping for more legal guidance and information on how to proceed before the next city council meeting on Monday.

“Well, you know, it's an innocent circumstance that we're just dealing with and, you know, the best thing we do is just act on the information we have and just take the next step we can when we have the ability do and have the information to support it. So definitely a novel situation. I’ve not heard of this circumstance occurring before but we sometimes face novel situations and circumstances. We just act on the best information we have and just continue progressing forward,” said Russell.

The councilors for Ward 1 and Ward 2 are waiting to hear from the courts before deciding if they will vote at the next city council meeting.

We will continue to monitor this story for any developments preceding the meeting.