COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — An Idaho couple who cast illegal ballots in the 2009 Coeur d'Alene city election have been fined and sentenced to probation.

Ronald Prior and Susan Harris, both of Hayden, each entered Alford pleas last month to one count of illegally registering to vote, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported Tuesday.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction at trial.

The 2009 general election was competitive and touched off legal challenges targeting the race between Councilman Mike Kennedy and challenger Jim Brannon.

Kennedy retained his seat, but the final winning margin was trimmed from five votes to three after a week-long trial over whether votes were illegally cast by people who didn't live in the city.

Earlier this year, Kootenai County resident Nancy White was fined $200 and sentenced to three months of probation for illegal voting.

The Press reported that White and Prior were declared illegal voters after the trial judge determined they had provided a commercial address in a Coeur d'Alene industrial park as their residence at the time they voted.

White and Prior have lived in Hayden for at least 20 years and told investigators they used the commercial address because they owned it. The couple could not recall if they voted for Kennedy or Brannon and so their votes were not tossed.

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The trial in their case was scheduled to begin last week.

Last year, the Coeur d'Alene City Council agreed to pay more than $69,000 to cover legal fees accrued by Kennedy in defending his narrow election victory in court.

At the time, city leaders said the move was in the best interest of the public because the threat of such lawsuits by people who lose elections could deter some potential candidates from seeking elected office.

Brannon has appealed his case to the Idaho Supreme Court.

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