NEWBERG, Ore. — A handful of ballots are still being counted and the results won't be officially certified until Feb. 14, but the two lead members of the Newberg School Board are safely on track to survive last week's dual recall election.
There were no replacement candidates on the Jan. 18 ballot; district voters were only asked to vote "Yes" or "No" on the questions of whether board chair Dave Brown and vice chair Brian Shannon should be recalled.
The "No" votes in both recalls took a lead of about 4% in initial results posted on election night, and both board members have retained those leads in the subsequent days, with very little change to the overall percentages.
The latest update from Yamhill County, posted Tuesday afternoon, showed Brown winning with 7,556 No votes to 6,977 Yes votes, or about 52% to 48%. Shannon's total stands just a hair higher, at 7,609 Yes votes to 7,005 No votes, or about 52.1% to 47.9%.
Roughly 14,000 Yamhill County votes were included in the initial tally on the night of Jan. 18, with about 600 added to the count in subsequent days. Under a new Oregon law, mail-in ballots received after election day will still be counted as long as they are postmarked by election day.
Yamhill County Clark Brian Van Bergen told KGW on Friday that there are at most 110 more Yamhill County ballots that could be added to the total before the Feb. 14 deadline, depending on how many voters come forward to resolve signature issues.
The Newberg School District is mostly within Yamhill County but slightly overlaps with Washington and Clackamas Counties at its northeastern edge, so about 600 Washington residents and about 300 Clackamas residents were also eligible to vote in the recall.
Washington County results, which were last updated Wednesday, show Brown leading with 190 No votes to 118 Yes votes and Shannon leading with 200 No votes to 125 Yes votes.
Clackamas County results, which have not been updated since election night, show an exact split for Shannon, 66 Yes votes to 66 No votes, and a single-vote lead in favor of recalling Brown, 67 Yes votes to 65 No votes.
Overall turnout has been incredibly high for the recall election; the latest Yamhill results show a 58.53% participation rate among district voters.
That's more than triple the 18.95% turnout when Brown, Shannon and board members Ines Peña and Brandy Penner were elected in May 2019, and nearly double the 31% turnout when board members Trevor DeHart and Renee Powell were elected in May 2021.
The recall campaigns were subject to significant public attention; both were launched after the board made 4-3 votes on a series of controversial policy decisions in the summer and fall of last year.
Brown, Shannon, DeHart and Powell form a conservative majority on the seven-member board, and they voted in August to ban teachers from displaying Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride signs on district school campuses. The policy was later replaced with a ban on all political displays.
The policies generated significant public pushback, including a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Oregon in December. The board also made headlines in November when it abruptly fired former Newberg Superintendent Joe Morelock without cause.
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The recall campaign leaders also alleged that Brown and Shannon violated public meeting laws by holding partial board meetings in private and hiring an outside attorney before giving the full board a chance to vote on it.
Brown and Shannon have described the political display ban as an effort to maintain a politically neutral learning environment in schools.
Recall proponents "have misrepresented a Board-approved policy which simply ensures that teachers cannot abuse their position of trust to push their own political views on students while performing their official duties," Shannon wrote in a statement for the ballot.
Brown also defended the ban in a recent interview with KGW, calling accusations of systemic racism in the district "overblown" and said he thought the recall campaigns were a waste of taxpayer money.
"The recalls are totally from the other side, they shouldn't have done it," he said. "I think elections speak for themselves and that we should stand by elections."