Incumbents, jail proposal dominate Nov. 4 general ballot

Write-in campaign and two commission races face voters

 

Except for three races, Marion County voters will cast judgment on incumbents when they go to the voting booth next Tuesday for the general election.

The marque race will be a historic presidential contest between John McCain, the veteran Republican senator and former prisoner of war who is the first GOP candidate to select a woman as his running mate, and Barack Obama, the young Democratic senator who is the first African-Ameri?can to make a serious run for the White House.

In the state races, Republican J. Robert ?Bob? Brookens of Marion is running uncontested for his first term as the state representative from the 70th district. He will succeed Republican Don Dahl, who opted not to seek another term in office.

In the county, the race for sheriff is uncontested?at least according to the printed ballot, with Republican Robert P. ?Rob? Craft as the only candidate listed.

But incumbent Lee Becker, who lost to Craft by 35 votes out of 2,260 cast in the Republican primary election in August, has mounted a write-in campaign to continue in the office.

Carol Maggard, county clerk and election officer, said serious write-in campaigns are unusual in Marion County.

?If they want to do it, it does take the person to physically write the name in,? she said of voters. ?The county passed a resolution this year prohibiting any kind of sticker or label to be brought into any poll site and be placed on a ballot.?

Maggard said the labels slow the vote-counting process because of the scanning system the county now employs.

As for writing in the name, Maggard said the important thing is that the identity be clear from what is written in the blank.

?We always follow the rule of thumb that if we can determine without extreme effort the intent of the voter, then it would be a valid vote,? she said.

?In this instance, if someone wrote in ?Becker,? I would advise my resolution board to make a tally mark for that vote,? Maggard said. ?If someone writes ?L.B.? it would probably be my recommendation that it is not something we can determine.

?It does not necessarily have to be the full name, but the full name is better than half of the name,? she added,

Maggard recommends that voters who write in a candidate?s name also darken the voting circle next to it. But it isn?t mandatory for the vote to count.

In other contested races in the county, voters in District 2 and District 3 will be asked to chose between their Republican incumbent representative and a Democratic challenger.

In District 2, incumbent Daniel Holub faces challenger James A. Herzet. Both men are Marion residents.

In District 3, incumbent Randy Dallke faces challenger Aaron Allen. Dallke lives in Peabody and Allen has a Marion address.

In the remaining county races, the Republican incumbents are running unopposed for re-election: Maggard for clerk; Jeannine Bateman for treasurer; Jo A. Ottensmeier for register of deeds; and Susan C. Robson for county attorney.

 

Proposal for sales-tax increase for jail project is one of three special questions

Voters across Marion County will be asked to indicate their preference on two special questions on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

One question is about funding a new jail and communications center with a 1-cent sales tax increase. The other question is whether to eliminate the county portion of the intangibles tax.

Patrons of Unified School District, meanwhile, will encounter a third question about changing the method for electing its school board members.

 

SALES-tax INCREASE

The issue generating the most energy this fall is the proposal to authorize a 1-cent sales-tax increase to pay for the construction of a new $8.65 million 78-bed pay-to-stay jail and communications center in Marion County.

The proposal, placed on the ballot by the county commissioners, has been the subject of two rounds of public meetings this month in Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody.

The commissioners see the project as the best solution for addressing the structural problems of the existing jail?described as ?dangerous? by Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker?with an opportunity for the county to generate revenue to offset costs by housing inmates from other counties and prisons.

Opponents, including an ad hoc group called Marion County Citizens for a Better Way, claim the jail will not come close to paying for itself, based on research it commissioned on five other pay-to-stay jails in central Kansas.

The group claims property taxes will have to increase to cover a projected annual operating shortfall of at least $1 million.

Opponents also argue the one-cent sales-tax increase would put Marion County and its communities among the highest sales-tax rates in the entire state, discouraging sales from outside the county, particularly for ?big-ticket? items such as furniture and vehicles.

A ?Yes? vote would indicate the voter favors the one-cent sales tax to build the jail and communications center. A ?No? vote would indicate the voter does not favor the proposal.

 

INTANGIBLES TAX

Marion County voters are being asked if they would like to have the county portion of the intangible tax eliminated.

An intangible tax is a local tax levied on gross earnings received from intangible property such as savings accounts, stocks, bonds, accounts receivable and mortgages.

According to County Clerk Carol Maggard, the county commissioners are proposing to eliminate the county portion of the tax because it is unenforceable, and thus generates complaints from constituents who dutifully pay the tax on the ?honor system? while their neighbors do not.

Maggard said revenue to the county from the intangibles tax has been declining over the years to the point where it generated barely 1 percent of the $4.037 million in tax revenue that went toward county use in 2007.

The ballot question, which follows the wording of the state statute, gives the commissioners authority to replace the lost revenue with additional property taxes. But Maggard said the commissioners have not considered exercising that option, given the minimal revenue the intangibles tax generates.

A ?Yes? vote would favor eliminating the county portion of the intangibles tax. A ?No? vote would favor keeping the intangibles tax as it is.

 

usd 410 representation

Patrons of USD 410 will be asked if they favor a plan developed by its board of education to revamp the way board representatives are elected.

Currently, one member is elected from six geographic districts within the 410 boundary, and a seventh member is elected at-large.

Under the new proposal, two members would be elected from three districts and a seventh would be elected at-large.

Motivating the change is a mandate by the state that voting districts should have near-equal representation by population. The former system was no longer providing that, according to Superintendent Doug Hux?man.

Rather than redraw the boundaries of the six interior districts, which Huxman called ?a mess,? board members decided it would be more effective to exercise the allowable option to create a three-district format.

A ?Yes? vote would favor the new plan. A ?No? vote would require the board to go back to the drawing board to develop a different plan to become compliant with the state mandate.

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