It appears questions are being laid to rest regarding Josh Waddell's successful campaign for Hays USD 489 Board of Education. At the least, obstacles are being removed that seemed to question whether his second-place finish in the April 2 election would be honored.
The school board has scheduled a special meeting Monday, although we're not clear what more there is to accomplish.
On Thursday, Waddell was able to file his oath of office -- seemingly the last procedural step necessary for him to take his position in July that 1,668 district patrons elected him to do. Almost fittingly, the candidate-elect was refused notarization of the oath at the Ellis County Clerk's Office. Waddell had to accomplish that elsewhere, but was allowed to submit it.
Nothing has been smooth at the clerk's office for Waddell since the election results were announced. Lance Bickle and Danielle Robben, the two other winners in the race, had no issues. Of course, they both were registered voters. Waddell was not. We'll call that Mistake No. 1.
The embarrassment caused by this surprising fact was self-inflicted -- and deserved. The confusion that followed was neither.
County Clerk and County Election Officer Donna Maskus declared after the election that Waddell was not a qualified elector because his voter registration wasn't current. She knew prior to the election, in fact prior to the April ballots being prepared. Despite the two speaking about other subjects, the registration didn't happen. State law requires the election officer to notify the candidate about any decision that their declaration for office was found to be invalid.
The ballots were printed anyway. We'll call that Mistake No. 2.
It could have ended there, but it didn't. After county commissioners canvassed the results, certifying amongst other totals that Waddell was the second top vote-getter, Maskus added a note that "Candidate Josh Waddell is found not to be a qualified elector of USD 489."
What that meant or what that implied moving forward was unclear. The Kansas Constitution requires candidates for office -- or electors -- to be a resident of the district to which they are seeking election, a U.S. citizen and older than 18 years of age.
State statutes, on the other hand, offer various definitions of electors. In fact, there are references to electors, qualified electors, duly qualified electors, and subscribing qualified registered electors depending on where you look. Different offices have different requirements as to when one must be an elector (whether at filing, on Election Day, or upon taking office) as well as when one must be a resident.
Conflicting statutes can create confusion and, as this was Maskus' first election in charge, we're sympathetic. But her attempt to correct Mistake No. 2 by adding the note to the certified totals was too late. And the move became Mistake No. 3.
The Kansas Secretary of State Office interpreted the note as nothing more. It wasn't an official objection. The ensuing objection period passed without anything being offered -- and that should have ended the confusion.
Yet Maskus said it was up to the school board to decide, likely based on advice from the commission's counselor, Bill Jeter. Unfortunately, he is the school board's attorney as well. Mistake No. 4.
We'll see what transpires at Monday's special BOE meeting. Should the board do anything other than accept the certified vote totals as presented -- as they do every other election -- then Mistake No. 5 will occur.
There is no need for any more errors to be introduced to this awkward and perhaps unprecedented incident. Josh Waddell was elected by the people, and he should serve his four-year term earned by his second-place finish.
If remedy is required to prevent a repeat, it should take place at the Legislature. The statutes should align in simple fashion. There is nothing the board can do to fix that issue.
Welcome to your duly elected position, board member Waddell.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry