Opponents accuse Boise neighborhood association of discouraging voting. Here’s why.

·4 min read

It’s another year, another election controversy for Boise’s oldest neighborhood association.

The North End Neighborhood Association will hold its annual election for the Board of Directors on Tuesday, with five currently vacant positions to fill. A nonprofit, the association was founded in 1976 and is the oldest organization of its kind in Boise, known for organizing the Hyde Park Street Fair.

Some association members, though, have accused the board of delaying notification of the election until the last minute, which could decrease voter turnout for what are already hotly contested seats. They argue it’s an intentional move by the board to suppress votes.

An email sent to association members on Wednesday, Sept. 22, called on the association’s members to vote on Tuesday and accused the current board of waiting until “the absolute bare minimum of required notice” to notify members about the election.

The election format is also changing. Members had until noon Monday to register for an online ballot, while others can vote in-person at Immanuel Lutheran Church on 707 W. Fort St. on Tuesday.

The North End Alliance, an organization opposed to the current board, called the election “a process that seems purposely confusing and difficult — to keep you from voting,” according to its website.

Carlos Coto, a current board member, said the board simply followed the association’s bylaws.

The bylaws state that board elections are to take place on the last Tuesday of September, with five members up for election in odd-numbered years and six members elected in even years. It also says notice of the election is to be submitted seven to 21 days before voting day.

A legal notice was placed in the Idaho Statesman on Sept. 21, one week before the election.

“You shouldn’t be surprised about it if you were informed and you really care about it,” Coto said. “If you want to be involved, then please read the bylaws.”

But opponents say one week isn’t enough time to let people know about an upcoming election. John Llewellyn, a former board member, said the board had adopted the practice of holding elections in October despite the bylaws.

Archived agendas show the association held its last two elections in October.

“They should’ve announced that (at the August board meeting),” Llewellyn said “This is just post-event justification.”

Coto said the association has hired a company to run this year’s election. He declined to name the company, adding that doing so could lead to it being “harassed.”

Maria Ringold, a North End resident for 28 years, told the Statesman she didn’t learn about the election until a couple days prior, when she was out of town. She said most residents aren’t familiar with the neighborhood association’s bylaws and would have like more notice ahead of time

She also said she wasn’t able to register online by the deadline and won’t be in Boise for the in-person election.

“I wish there was more in the way of information that’s put out about the election,” Ringold said by phone on Monday. “It’s problematic.”

North End activists in March organized a recall vote of the five board members, whom they accused of “hijacking” the 2020 board election and forcing out sitting members. Multiple board members resigned in the months following the 2020 election.

But the March recall was not recognized by the sitting board, whose members denied the hijacking accusations and stayed put. A lawsuit has been filed against the association by the opponents, some of whom are former members themselves.

While more than 700 residents voted in favor of the recall, the board — now consisting of Coto, Sarah Forreger, Daniel Forreger, Sitka Koloski and Tory Spengler, with six vacancies, five of which would be filled by Tuesday’s vote — has maintained the recall was not legally valid. The sixth vacancy is a resignation that will be filled by the board.

Who’s running so far was not fully clear. The association has not listed candidates on its website. Coto said members can nominate themselves at Tuesday’s meeting. An opposition organization set up a website listing several candidates, but it’s unclear it represents all the candidates. Llewellyn said he did not know where that list of names came from.

Voting will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m., with nominations and speeches starting at 7 p.m.

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