Frederick, Kansas, it seems, is a town that just won’t die.

Residents tried to kill it during the November election. Or, at least, that’s what the Rice County town’s last mayor had expected to be the outcome.

But, just like a county seat election during the Wild West days, more people cast votes to determine Frederick’s fate than the town had registered voters.

On Nov. 8, 13 people voted to keep Kansas’ second-smallest town incorporated, according to County Clerk Alicia Showalter. In all, 20 people cast ballots.

The problem: Frederick has only 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 don’t live in the community ballots with Frederick’s incorporation question, Showalter said.

Even after catching the mistake – after the results were canvassed and certified by the Rice County Commission – the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office considers the vote “official,” despite the voting numbers. This occurs as Secretary of State Kris Kobach continues his efforts in fighting voter fraud – a primary focus of his office.

The results would be fine if that’s what the folks in Frederick wanted.

Robert Root, the town’s last mayor, was surprised to learn from The News this week that the town would remain incorporated.

“I told everyone they have to go vote that we aren’t going to be a city,” Root said, adding there was a consensus by residents to end Frederick’s incorporation. “No one wants to be on the council anymore.”

Frederick’s demise

Frederick, an official third-class city in Kansas, is almost a

ghost town


The schoolhouse is empty, stripped of its desks. A jail cell sits in the middle of a field of wheat stubble, the metal bars and innards rusting. Old playground equipment and paint-worn cars are barely visible amid the trees after decades of neglect.

Frederick once had as many as 150 people, along with grocery stores, a lumberyard, blacksmiths and restaurants.

The population has largely been dropping ever since. Today, about nine or 10 people live in the city limits, according to residents.

Yet Frederick has continued to stave off death. It lost the railroad roundhouse to nearby Hoisington, and then a tornado in 1914 knocked the town to its knees, but it rebuilt, according to a 1975 article in The News. However, a fire in 1934 wiped out much of the business district.

The last blow for the town came in April 2015. No one ran for mayor or for any of the City Council seats in the spring election. Not one resident wrote in a name, either. In fact, it appears no one in town even voted.

For the first time since the town’s inception in 1887, Frederick had no leaders.

Root, who is still acting mayor by law, said he can’t do it alone. However, “They don’t want to serve anymore,” he said of what residents remain. Moreover, the city clerk, Melode Huggans, has been battling cancer, he said.

Frederick’s budget is due every August. Two Augusts have gone by with no budget set, said Showalter.

The lack of budgetary authority, along with no one wanting to serve in office, prompted Rice County officials to reach out to the residents of Frederick. They requested that the town consider dissolving.

Showalter said the acting council requested that the measure be put on the ballot.

Voting to dissolve

The question on the ballot reads: Shall the city of Frederick be dissolved?

Until Tuesday, Root said he thought the town was going to unincorproate. City Clerk Huggans was still paying the city’s electric bill, Root said.

Huggans could not be reached as of press time Wednesday.

Bryan Caskey, director of elections with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, said he learned of the mistake Monday.

With the Rice County Commission certifying the results, they are official, he said, referencing Kansas law.

He also said that people can contest an election up to five days later, but that time has passed.

“Basically three weeks after the election – not much we can do,” he said, adding, “Once they are certified, that is the results.”

Caskey said there have been wrong ballots given to voters in the past – but nothing to this level. Usually, he said, the voters will catch it or the canvassing will.

Eric Smith, legal counsel with the League of Kansas Municipalities, said at this point, everything remains the same.

Frederick is still an incorporated town with no leaders or budget authority. With no one elected at the last election, those last elected or appointed to the council are obligated to remain until replaced.

State statute has these rules for a city that wants to unincorporate, Smith said. The council still has to call for an election on the matter. A decision must pass by a two-thirds vote.

The Kansas Legislature could also officially disincorporate the town through legislative action, said Smith. The last time this happened was for the town of Treece, a polluted mining town that had 130-plus residents in 2010 but was abandoned by 2012 due to government buyouts.

In 1895, the Kansas Legislature vacated a number of Kansas cities that sprang up with settlement and then disappeared, according to The News’ archives. That included the town of Cash City in Clark County, which at one time was reported to have 500 people but was empty by the time lawmakers took action.

Showalter said the last time the city of Frederick filed a budget, it had roughly $90,000.

She said the City Council will now have to again request an election on the matter.

But until then, Frederick is still a city.