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Early results: Newberg school board recall election too close to call

The election will determine whether to recall school board vice chair Brian Shannon and chair Dave Brown, who make up one-half of the board's conservative majority.

NEWBERG, Ore. — Voters have decided whether to recall Newberg school board vice chair Brian Shannon and board chair Dave Brown who, as part of the board's conservative majority, have led headline-making decisions such as a ban on political displays in classrooms and firing the district's superintendent without cause.

Ballots were due Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. and results started coming in shortly thereafter. 

Early results showed voters leaning against both recall efforts by small margins, and the percentages remained virtually unchanged as of Jan. 20. However, it may take up to 21 days for the results to be officially certified, with more ballots still being counted. 

In Yamhill County, early results Tuesday night showed 52.05% of voters were opposed to recalling Shannon out of 14,082 votes. The results for Brown were similar, with 51.95% opposed to the recall out of 14,005 votes. A Wednesday update added about 40 more votes and left the percentages virtually unchanged.

A handful of residents in Clackamas and Washington counties also participated in the recall vote. 

In Clackamas County, Tuesday night's early results showed 132 voters practically split down the middle on whether to recall Shannon and Brown. 

In Washington County, which reported just under 250 votes on election night, the voters were almost 60-40 with the majority voting against the recall effort. A Thursday update bought to total to more than 300 voters, but kept the percentages remained almost unchanged.

Brown and Shannon comprise one half of the seven-member board's conservative majority, which 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.

The recall campaign leaders have 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.

RELATED: Decision to fire Joe Morelock was a late update to the Newberg school board agenda

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."

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