816 North

Election oddities around the Northland

As could be expected, results for big-ticket items on the April 4 ballot received most of the attention. But two items farther down the ballot raised questions, if not an eyebrow or two.

In the small Clay County community of Mosby, candidates Tammy Kilgore and Joe Carter finished with 12 votes apiece in the race for a Ward 2 board of aldermen seat. It’s an outcome that can easily be resolved, but one of the options could cost the town of 191 people a chunk of change.

According to state election law, a special election is provided for if the tied candidates are unable to break the logjam themselves.

The tie-breaking method, spelled out in Chapter 115 of the state statutes, calls for the deadlocked candidates to either draw lots — using agreed-upon methods such as flipping a coin or drawing straws — or contest the result with a new election.

“There’s a provision where you can break the tie by drawing lots if both candidates are OK with that,” said Chris Hershey, director of the election board in neighboring Platte County.

The idea is to keep costs down, Hershey said. If a new election is needed, a county election board is faced with expenses such as staffing its office for absentee voting, paying election judges and poll workers and covering other costs.

“It’s probably going to cost a couple thousand dollars before it’s done,” Hershey said, citing a 2013 tie vote in Ferrelview, a small Platte County community of 451 people. Breaking that tie cost the town just under $2,000, he said.

Clay County election officials could face comparable expenses.

Julie Cazzell, the city clerk in Mosby, said the city expects a new election to be required.

“I talked to the mayor today (April 5) and he thought that’s what would happen,” Cazzell said.

Hershey, the Platte election board director, said the state’s lot-drawing provision can also inspire creativity among candidates.

“Rather than have an election, one of the candidates said he wanted a foot race,” Hershey said, referring to the 2013 Ferrelview tie. “That wasn’t an approved method of breaking the tie, so we went ahead and held a new election.”

Although Platte County had no tie to resolve last week, it did face an election-law wrinkle of its own. In Ferrelview — the same community that broke the tie — a candidate who filed to fill the unexpired term of one of the town’s trustees was disqualified before the election took place.

In a March 8 letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue, Hershey said he was informed that candidate Bartholomew R. Whorton failed to resolve an issue of unpaid taxes and was disqualified from running for office.

On Election Day, Hershey said he posted notice to that effect, saying votes for Whorton would not count.

When the election board tallied the final vote on April 4, it canceled those cast for Whorton. That left the only candidate remaining on the ballot — Brooks Moseley — with 22 votes.

However, that didn’t automatically make Moseley the winner.

According to unofficial results, 28 voters wrote in names on their ballots, most if not all for declared write-in candidate Melvin Rhodes.

On Friday, April 7, a three-member election verification board met to verify the write-in votes. Of the 28 cast, 26 were certified as votes for Rhodes — making the write-in candidate a winner.

Hershey said the verification process is routinely used to weed out ineligible write-in votes, including any from out-of-area residents or tongue-in-cheek choices such as Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd or a national political figure.

On Election Day, Hershey said notices were posted at polling places to inform voters which write-in candidates had made their intentions known to the election board before a March 20 deadline. Rhodes, the ultimate winner for a trustee seat in Ferrelview, was one of those.