Write-in campaign set for school board

Friday, April 23, 2010

One write-in candidate for the Marshall County School Board has asked the Election Commission to count paper ballots cast for his election, thereby almost assuring him a seat on that panel in September.

The candidate is Robert L. "R.L." Williams, a former county commissioner who's served on the county Budget Committee, and who's also been Lewisburg's stormwater coordinator as the city moved toward compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Williams' candidacy was revealed during discussion at a meeting of the Election Commission on Tuesday morning in the county's Hardison Office Annex building on College Street.

School Board member Kristen Gold did not file a petition to be re-elected to serve the district that she's been representing. April 1 was the deadline for candidates to file petitions to be named on the printed ballot.

The deadline for someone else to file a certificate with the county Election Commission to have write-in ballots counted is June 16.

There had been a requirement for Election Commissions to count every write-in ballot, but an act of the state Legislature changed that. With that new law, ballots cast for fictitious candidates, such as Mickey Mouse or the Roadrunner, can be ignored.

That law also eliminated stealth campaigns that might allow one person to elect themselves to an open post, or several people to elect an unsuspecting resident to a public office without them knowing it until votes were counted.

County Elections Administrator Jo Ann Henry explained the situation surrounding Williams' write-in campaign.

Those circumstances include a deadline to withdraw, she said. If nobody files another certificate for a write-in campaign by June 16, Williams could decide to withdraw and if he did so within five days, then the seat held by Gold would be vacant in September. Assuming that candidates were found, it would be filled by a special election on Nov. 2 when state and federal elections are held.

Henry's explanation corrects a report here on April 9 when it was erroneously reported that the vacancy would be filled by the county commission.

Meanwhile, there's a vacancy on the county Election Commission. Lynda Sherrell's letter of resignation was accepted "with regret" by a unanimous vote of the commissioners who acknowledged her health prevents her attendance.

Also noted during the commission meeting on Tuesday is that all incumbents on the Chapel Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen who have terms expiring in September have qualified to seek re-election and that there are no other candidates to be named on the prepared ballot.