The Clark County Board of Elections counting ballots that were not counted election day.

Hundreds of provisional ballots may sway Springfield tax hike results

The Clark County Board of Elections declared 717 provisional ballots cast by city residents should be counted, which could effect the final outcome of the city of Springfield income tax increase request.

Election board officials reviewed Monday all 1,600 provisional and some remaining absentee ballots cast countywide. Overall, they found about 1,400 ballots eligible to be counted.

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All of the remaining votes will be counted and certified at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Clark County Board of Elections at the Springview Government Center.

Several of the races in Clark County were decided by thousands of votes and are likely to remain unchanged.

But the unofficial results from the Nov. 8 election showed Springfield residents turned down the city’s additional income tax by 55 votes. So the 717 provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted from city residents could change those results or force an automatic recount.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Jason Baker said this year’s provisional ballots are important.

“The city tax levy could swing either way,” he said.

If the levy passes, the income tax for the city will rise for five years from 2 percent to 2.4 percent. The tax would generate an additional $6.7 million annually.

For an employee making $30,000 a year, the tax would cost an additional $9.75 per month.

The elections board rejected 95 city votes for various reasons, including voters not being registered — 64 votes — and voters going to the wrong poll — 19 votes.

Making sure all personal information is updated should be a top priority before going to vote, Baker said.

“It is important,” Baker said. “The more accurate it is before we send a ballot the easier it is.”

City leaders attended the ballot review Monday morning. Springfield Deputy City Manager Bryan Heck said he showed up to watch the review and get a total count.

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“We just wanted to be able to verify the number of provisional ballots,” Heck said.

The more provisional ballots, he said, the more likely the tax increase will pass.

Local attorney Dan Harkins also attended the ballot review. He has been a leading voice campaigning against the tax hike. He and other opponents have said the city asked for too much money, the tax issue puts too much of a burden on residents and it would hurt the city’s economy.

As city leaders wait to find out whether the increase passed, they’ve talked about cuts in services if the levy failure stands. Springfield city staff members have recommended about $1.5 million in cuts next year in several departments, including to parks, municipal court, safety services and a local tourism agency.

Springfield city commissioners are expected to vote on the 2017 budget on Dec. 20. If the income tax hike passes, the $1.5 million in cuts won’t be made next year, but could be considered in the future.

Several township levies also passed or failed by less than 300 votes. But it’s unclear how many of the provisional ballots were from those precincts.

The Clark-Shawnee school bond, a question that would have built a new elementary school in the district and renovated Shawnee High school if approved, was one of those races that ended in a small margin Nov. 8. The issue failed by 197 votes.

Baker said he was unsure of the total numbers of provisional ballots cast in the school district, but did acknowledge it was possible that the results could be changed depending on the final count.

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