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Election petitionMary Martin, a Wyandotte County resident, on Monday evening called upon the Unified Government to hold a special election to fill the vacant UG 1st District, at large Commission seat. She presented a petition signed by about 100 people. (Staff photo)
Twenty days after bringing her petition to City Hall asking for a special election for a vacant Unified Government commission seat, a resident presented it at a Unified Government committee meeting Monday.
“The signatures do represent the community’s frustration with the Unified Government Commissioners’ inability to fill the District 1 at-large seat,” Mary Martin, a Wyandotte County resident, told the committee. “The citizens of District 1 should have the opportunity to vote for their representative. We need representation because it’s not fair or just for the commissioners to do nothing.”
The 1st District at large UG Commission seat remains vacant after commissioners were unable to reach the required six votes for an appointment to the seat. The district includes the north half of Wyandotte County, Mayor Mark Holland’s former seat.
“The community will not allow you to highjack our citizens’ democracy,” Martin said. “Let the citizens vote for a District 1 at-large seat.”
Her petition originally called for a vote of the people by Dec. 31, but she noted during her presentation that since December is now half-over, she was just asking for a vote soon. While the UG has said the cost of a special election would be $75,000, she proposed having a smaller, scaled-down election on a Saturday with two polling places open using volunteers.
No action was taken Monday evening at the committee level on this petition. Commissioner Angela Markley, chairing the committee, said any of the commissioners could ask Mayor Holland to place it on the regular UG Commission meeting agenda for consideration.
Martin had been told in November that she needed to be on an agenda to present her petition, and she presented it at the Dec. 16 Administration and Human Services Standing Committee meeting.
Among those whose names were on the petition were UG Commissioner Tarence Maddox, who was attending the committee meeting; Robert Milan Sr., a Board of Public Utilities member; Mary Ann Flunder, a Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees member; Beatrice Lee, a neighborhood leader; Alvin Sykes, a community activist; and Shirley Carter-Ikerd, Martin’s mother and a Democratic precinct committeewoman. Flunder, Sykes and Carter-Ikerd were also in attendance at the committee meeting.
Commissioner Hal Walker, who is a retired UG attorney, said he would like the UG’s legal counsel to research the elections question. He said the UG’s charter ordinance may not allow a special election. It calls for an appointment by the commission to fill vacancies, he said. Walker said the UG may not be able to hold a special election without amending the charter ordinance.
Also, he said the UG may have to abide by the normal election procedures.
“We have to take a serious look at the underlying legalities of it,” he said.
Alvin Sykes, a community activist, last week wrote a letter to Mayor Holland requesting an investigation of the UG’s election methods and procedures.
The basis for this are the UG’s rules that allow UG commissioners from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 1st at-large districts who lose a mayoral primary to return to their UG seats for two more years. But commissioners from the 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th and 2nd at-large districts in a similar situation, who run for mayor and lose, are out of office as commissioners. This situation does not change in future years, there is no alternating or changing of the terms.
“As a citizen residing in Kansas City, Kansas I firmly believe that, under the totality of the circumstances, the electoral method for Mayor/CEO utilized to date results in some citizens and candidates having unequal and inferior opportunity to other members of the electorate, based on residency, to participate in the political process for mayor and to elect candidates of their preferred choice,” Sykes wrote in his letter.
In the past mayoral campaign, Commissioner Nathan Barnes, representing the 1st District, ran for mayor and lost in the primary election. He exited his commission seat, which had no years left on it. Commissioner Ann Murguia of the 3rd District also ran for mayor and lost, but retained her commission seat, as it still had two years left on it.
Sykes’ letter stated that he believes Barnes may have become a victim of a section 2 violation of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, whether or not the electoral method was originally intended to produce this result. Sykes’ letter also requested that a new electoral process be implemented before the next mayoral election.
There was no discussion of Sykes’ proposal at the Dec. 16 UG committee meeting.
For earlier stories on this issue, see http://www.wyandottedailynews.com/news/petition-to-call-a-special-election-for-filling-vacant-ug-co/