A five-member canvassing board’s ruling on 19 ballots could decide a $96 million School District 833 bond measure.

A hand recount Friday narrowed the margin of victory on the middle school bond question by one to 18 votes out of 13,659 cast, with the “yes” column gaining one vote and “no” gaining two. But 19 ballots that were challenged will go to the canvassing board Wednesday, Nov. 25, to determine where they land. The outcome could tip the result the other way.

Most of those challenged ballots had a similar theme: voters filled in the “O” of the word “No,” rather than the oval next to the word. A few other discrepancies where ballots were marked incorrectly - such as with only a dot instead of a filled oval or a line through a word - also were challenged.

“The machine doesn’t count those,” said Carol Peterson, Washington County’s elections manager. None of the challenged ballots were counted.

The canvassing board will decide what to do with those 19 ballots, Peterson said. “I have the blessing from both sides on that.”

Election judges spent about four hours Friday at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater hand-counting the ballots for the recount, calling out votes and making piles as observers from each side watched.

The recount was triggered by a written request submitted to the school district and a petition signed by 63 voters. A ballot measure recount can occur at the expense of the school district if a written request and signatures from at least 25 eligible voters are submitted and the difference is within 0.25 percent, according to state law. The bond measure in question passed with a 0.14 percent margin.

The measure, Question 2 on the Nov. 3 ballot, would fund construction of a new Oltman Middle School in northwest Cottage Grove and upgrades to the other three middle schools - Cottage Grove, Lake and Woodbury.

Question 1’s $10.3 million operating levy increase was approved by a wider margin, and Question 3, a $46.5 million bond, was rejected.

The canvassing board meets at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25, at the District Service Center.