Voting-day memo sparks concern

The school superintendent says he plans a different tack next time after a 'big brother' note struck an off note.


WALLA WALLA -- A look at the county's voting records last week prompted an email by Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller that hit some staff members the wrong way.

In the days leading up to the Feb. 14 special election for the district's maintenance and operation levy, Miller sent an all-staff email as a reminder to vote. Miller's email, which was obtained by the Union-Bulletin, said a review of voting returns showed 200 staff members had not yet voted.

Miller said while many staff were appreciative of a reminder to vote, he spoke to three who had concerns about privacy.

Voting results are a matter of public record. Whether a registered voter has cast a vote is public; how someone has voted is not. In the email, Miller did not urge his staff to vote a certain way, just reminded them on the importance to vote.

Miller said he has in past years checked "match back" lists in his former districts, but this is the first time it has been done in Walla Walla.

Miller prefaced the staff email by joking that he was taking a slight "big brother" turn.

It turns out much less than 200 staff -- more like 45 -- had not yet cast ballots for the special election at the time of the email. An error in the reading of the results resulted in the wrong number being cited, Miller said.

Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin said her office received a request from the School District for a "match back" list in early February. The list includes everyone that has been sent a ballot and their status in the election; whether the ballot has been returned, or is pending, etc.

Anyone can request a match back list for a $50 one-time fee. Updated lists are then sent every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the election. Miller would have received a list Feb. 13, the date of the email.

The practice of reviewing match back lists is not new. Martin said match back lists are often used by campaigns to make sure calls are not going out to people who have already voted.

"It's been used that way for years," Martin said.

The district's levy passed handily, with 64 percent of voting residents in favor.

Miller said he will likely take a different approach to remind staff to vote in the future.

"I always remind staff to vote at every election via email or staff newsletter as I believe that educators have a responsibility to model involvement in the political process," Miller said. "Despite the fact that match backs are a public record, I will look for different strategies to remind staff to vote."

Union-Bulletin reporter Andy Porter contributed to this story. Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at or 526-8317.


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