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Waddell's election win in question




The Hays Daily News

The new slate of Hays USD 489 Board of Education members is on rocky ground as the second top vote-getter, Josh Waddell, has been found not to be a qualified elector, according to Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus.

Waddell filed for the board of education spot in January. According to Maskus, she called and left a message letting him know he needed to register to vote.

"In the rush, I went on with other things and didn't get back to that," Maskus said Monday afternoon. "I shouldn't have put him on the ballot because he should have been a qualified elector."

Waddell said he registered to vote in Ellis County at the Department of Motor Vehicles in 2011. He didn't know he wasn't a registered voter in Ellis County until a few days before the election, because he had been out of town on business for the presidential election.

"I take responsibility for not looking for the voter registration card," to come in the mail, he said Monday afternoon. "It's a huge embarrassment for me, and I apologize to the community."

Waddell registered to vote Friday, after the election, Maskus said, and previously had been a registered voter in Osborne County.

Waddell also plans to file a formal request with the Kansas Secretary of State to look into his voter registration application.

Waddell, Lance Bickle and Danielle Robben were elected to the Hays USD 489 Board of Education on April 2.

Votes were canvassed Monday evening by Ellis County commissioners, and Waddell will be certified as second top vote-getter in the race. However, Maskus said she would make a note when certifying the votes to the Kansas State Board of Education and Hays USD 489 that Waddell was not a qualified elector.

If Waddell is determined not to be a qualified elector, it will create a vacancy on the board in July, Bill Jeter, USD 489 board attorney and Ellis County counsel, said Monday afternoon.

If that happens, the board will have to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next election in two years, Jeter said.

That said, it remains a question whether Waddell met requirements. According to the Kansas secretary of state's office, citing the Kansas Constitution, "a qualified elector is a 'citizen of the United States who has attained the age of 18 years and who resides in the voting area in which he or she seeks to vote.' " (Article 5, Section 1)

Definitions of "elector" and "qualified elector" found on the secretary of state's website also draw no express connection between being registered to vote and being eligible to run for office.

However, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards website, candidates for local school boards are required to be registered voters. Hays USD 489 is a dues-paying member of KASB.

According to standards issued by the Kansas Secretary of State's office, a candidate for a local school board must be a qualified elector at the time of filing.

Kay Curtis, spokeswoman for the Kansas secretary of state's office, said Monday the next step will be taken at the local level.

"It's really the county election officer's duty to certify who got the most votes," she said. "By certifying who got the second top number of votes, the county clerk has done his or her job."

The notation Maskus plans likely would not qualify as an objection but would be for information purposes.

Without objection, however, it is conceivable Waddell could take office, despite the potential he was not officially qualified to be a candidate.

"It can happen," Curtis said.

An objection could be something as simple as the sitting school board advising Waddell he does not qualify for office and, therefore, should not take the oath of office.

Curtis also confirmed the terms "elector" and "registered voter" are not necessarily interchangeable, noting an elector needs only to be a U.S. citizen, be 18 years or older and reside in the voting district.

According to the Kansas Open Meetings Act, the school board's discussion of what happens next should be public, said Michael Merriam, Kansas Press Association attorney.

KOMA allows an exemption for closed sessions for non-elected officials only.