The fate of the state’s two smallest cities remains up in the air after Tuesday’s election.
Rice County’s Frederick and Harper County’s Freeport placed similar special questions on the ballot: Should it remain a city or be dissolved and become part of a township.
In Frederick, the final unofficial tally was a 2-2 tie. In Freeport, there were 2 votes at the polls to dissolve the city, but a couple more ballots are in the batch that won’t be counted until canvassing Monday, according to Harper County Clerk Ruth Elliott.
Robert Root, the acting mayor by law, said in late October that he thought everyone still in Frederick - he counted roughly eight - had committed to voting against Frederick remaining a city.
The town hasn’t set a budget in more than two years, which is required by state statute. No one ran for re-election when positions were up in April 2015 - including Root.
On Tuesday, the ballot question could have been confusing: “Shall the City of Frederick remain a City of the Third Class, or be dissolved as a City and become a part of Eureka Township, Rice County, Kansas?”
Clarifying language also appeared on the ballot: To vote in favor of the city of Frederick remaining a City, darken the oval to the left of the word “Yes”. To vote against the City of Frederick remaining a City, darken the oval to the left of the word “No”.
Tuesday’s ballot marked a second attempt to vote Frederick out of existence. A voting snafu marred the Nov. 8, 2016 election.
Thirteen people voted to keep Frederick incorporated, Rice County Clerk Alicia Showalter said at the time. In all, 20 people cast ballots.
The problem: Frederick only had nine registered voters. And, by Election Day, only six went to the polls.
At the Eureka Township voting precinct in Bushton, election workers accidentally gave ineligible township residents who didn’t live in the community ballots with Frederick’s incorporation question.
On Tuesday, Frederick voters did not see a ballot for Frederick mayor or for city council seats, while communities across the state were choosing their city leaders. In Harper County, there were write-in spaces for Freeport city candidates, Harper County Clerk Ruth Elliott said, because it couldn’t be assumed the city would be dissolved.
Initially, Rice County Clerk’s staff told The News the absence of Frederick city offices on the ballot was due to the absence of candidate filings. However, a number of cities have offices on the ballot and voters must write in candidate names. On Wednesday County Clerk Showalter pointed the finger at Frederick. The city did not certify to her office what positions were up in this election.
Melode Huggans, handling city clerk duties for Frederick, said she didn’t ask for the job but her predecessor, a woman in her 90s, wanted someone to take over clerk's duties. Huggans said she pays the light bill, but has “no clue how the government part of it runs.”
Freeport’s Carol Peterson said it was a unanimous decision to put the Freeport question on the ballot, and the issue is not controversial there.
“I show that they have five voters,” said Harper County Clerk Elliott. But people who live in Freeport can count four current registered voters.
There will be more Freeport ballots counted Monday, Elliott said.