Left to right: Erin Graham, Hillary Henderson, and Nichole Martin
On the last possible day according to state law, the Ingham County Board of Canvassers approved the results of the East Lansing Board of Education election just before 5 p.m. this Tuesday. The approval confirmed the election of current Board members Erin Graham and Hillary Henderson along with newcomer Nichole Martin, who appears to have won the third open seat by only sixteen votes.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum sent an email with a copy of the Certificate of Election for Nichole Martin (shown below) on Wednesday. However, while the election of Martin was confirmed, it is still unclear what the total, official vote counts were.
Because the East Lansing Public School District extends from Ingham County into a portion of Clinton County, the final counts listed on the Ingham County Elections website do not include the votes tallied in Bath Precinct 5. Those figures are no longer listed on the Clinton County website either.
“The Official Vote Totals are different than the official canvass, which does include the partial canvasses from the other counties. I am still posting things, reporting to the State, mailing canvasses, etc.,” Byrum wrote Wednesday morning.
Martin, who has had to wait more than two weeks to know if she had secured a seat, wants people to know that close races such as this are the reason every person must vote.
“It is my understanding that something like this happened two years ago, in counting the same collective precinct, and it has caused a lot of confusion,” Martin said. “Nationally, there are many people who struggle to feel like ‘their vote’ counts. I can tell you that in a school board election, every single vote counts.”
In unofficial tallies, Martin came in 3rd with 5,667 votes while candidate Kyle Guerrant came in 4th with 5,651. Graham and Henderson, both current Board members, were elected with 6,917 and 6,309 votes respectively.
In 5th place was current Board member Kath Edsall with 5,512 votes, followed by Michael Conlin with 5,010 and Robert Clark with 2,614.
Martin and Henderson had campaigned and fundraised together with Guerrant.
“I want to thank Kyle and his wife, Emily, and Hillary and her husband, Brett, for taking the time to show me how to put together a campaign that was focused solely the desire to want more for our community,” Martin said. “I appreciate both of their skills set and willingness to run for EL BoE with a clean and concise message about what they would like to do to help our district compete with schools across the state. Kyle and I are friends. We wanted to work on the school board together. We supported each throughout the entire campaign, through the last two weeks and will continue to do so in the future.”
Guerrant echoed Martin’s comments in a Facebook message to his supporters.
“Those who know me, know I really don't like losing, but in this case ELPS students are winners with Nichole's addition to the Board. She has a big heart and will be an advocate for all students in the district. Thank you for all the support and encouragement during the campaign -- it is humbling and appreciated more than you know,” Guerrant wrote.
Erin Graham also indicated gratitude to her supporters for giving her a chance at a full term on the Board. Graham was selected by the Board to complete the final year of Nathaniel Lake’s term after he resigned from the Board in 2015.
“I am honored to have been elected to continue serving on the East Lansing Board of Education, and I give thanks to the East Lansing community for their vote of confidence,” Graham said. “All of the contenders ran a valiant race, and I would like to thank them for their commitment to our school district.”
Edsall will be leaving the Board after December but said she is far from done with being involved in the district’s educational system.
“I am very proud of what I have accomplished during my time on the board. My devotion to all children in general, and the most marginalized ones in particular, is what prompted me to run four years ago. Supporting our LGBTQ and GNC [gender non-conforming] kids, our ELL students disabled students and racial minority students is where I placed my focus throughout my term. I was very touched today as some of those same people have reached out and thanked me for all I did. It is unfortunate that the idea of equity creates fear in so many as it has both at the national and local level leading to a political climate of fear mongering, hate and lies. I hope as we move forward we can find places of compromise and support for all students without fearing that means someone has to lose out,” Edsall told ELi.
Mike Conlin, professor of economics at MSU, wishes the winners well.
“I congratulate the candidates who won and hope they make wise financial decisions to increase classroom resources,” he said.
Robert Clark, a newcomer to the district schools, hopes now that the election is finalized, all the candidates can come together and work for the betterment of all students.
“Finally, after, what seems like an endless election, we have an opportunity to come together to show our students dignity in defeat, grace in victory, and solidarity in our community,” Clark said.
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