BLACKFOOT – An Atomic City couple faced an administrative hearing before Bingham County Clerk Pamela Eckhardt Thursday after Atomic City Mayor Christian Polatis filed a challenge to the address listed on their voter registration card.
Polatis filed the challenge on Jan. 10, Eckhardt said, accusing Victoria Marie O’Haro and Blake Landon Lyle of listing their place of residence when registering to vote in 2016 as Atomic City when in fact they live outside the city limits in Bingham County.
While the couple claimed on their voter registration form that their residence is an apartment over a bar that O’Haro owns in Atomic City, Polatis says, they actually live in a double-wide manufactured home across the county line near the city. “They moved there in 2016 on the county side of Main Street and it’s been their primary residence,” he said. “They eat, sleep, cook, and raise their daughter there.”
Polatis said that when confronted with an unpaid water and sewer bill, O’Haro claimed to not be an Atomic City resident.
In the couple’s defense, O’Haro said their primary residence is an apartment above the bar she owns, and that’s the address they listed when registering to vote, but that they go back and forth between the two places.
She said they only stay in the county house during the school week because they have a 10-year-old daughter and don’t believe a home above a bar is a fitting place for a child that age. So, she said, they stay in the house during the school week and the apartment at other times. She said when she told a person at her daughter’s school where the bus should stop to pick her up, the person commented that they’d never picked a child up at a bar before.
Lyle said they own property and houses at several locations, including Pocatello where he spends a month each year, but Atomic City is his permanent address. He said when the couple moved there from Tetonia in 2016 they purchased several properties, including the bar and the Atomic City racetrack. When they feel their child is old enough, he said, they plan to return to their primary address over the bar, and eventually to build a house in the city.
Lyle said the address on the voter registration card is the same as the ones on their driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, and where they receive power bills and commercial mail.
Danette Miller, county election registration clerk, read the legal definition of permanent residence for election registration purposes, and Eckhardt presented her own findings, in which she said that information from the county assessor does not show an assessment for living quarters above the bar as is normal when a business has them attached.
She asked how many nights the couple sleep there, and O’Haro responded “a couple of nights a month. Eckhardt asked at what point they intend to move to the apartment permanently.
Both said they have no timeline for doing that, only that it will be when their daughter is old enough. O’Haro said the action by Polatis is a personal vendetta against the couple started by him in the summer of 2019 when he decided he didn’t want them in Atomic City.
During the hearing, Eckhardt noted that Atomic City has 26 registered voters and said, “I’m aware of conflicts and disputes that have occurred over the years that have taken up a considerable amount of time of county officials.”
When the half-hour hearing concluded, Eckhardt said she will study the testimony and information and issue a ruling in 14 days.
She said later that challenges to election registration addresses are not uncommon, but they normally come from the clerk’s office and are not contested. “This is the first one we’ve had from a citizen,” she said.