by Ivan Foley
The Platte County Board of Elections will move forward with placing Andy Smith’s name on the ballot as an independent candidate for first district Platte County commissioner in November.
But legal questions remain and court action that could challenge his certification as a candidate remains a possibility.
Smith turned in a petition with 776 signatures of voters in his effort to be placed on the ballot. Of that total, the board of elections directors say they certified 571 as valid. The magic number of certified signatures for Smith to be placed on the ballot is 459. That number represents two percent of the total number of ballots case in the last election for the first district commission spot, which was in 2012.
But after the 571 were certified, a letter was sent to attorneys for the board of elections raising questions about the validity of the petition process and the certified signatures. The letter was sent by the law firm of Graves Garrett LLC on behalf of Dagmar Wood, who was the winner of the Republican primary on Aug. 2. Wood defeated incumbent Beverlee Roper by 95 votes, winning 2031 to 1936, a margin of 51% to 49%.
The letter from Wood’s attorney resulted in further review by Chris Hershey and Wendy Flanigan, directors for the Platte County Board of Elections. Around 67 more signatures could be eliminated, lowering Smith’s number to just over 500 total. That’s still above the number needed for his name to be certified on the ballot.
Attorneys for the Platte County Board of Elections are Scott Campbell (Republican) and Jared Welch (Democrat). At a meeting of the Platte County Board of Election commissioners Tuesday night, Campbell provided an update to board members Jim Everett, Betty Knight, Marvin Ferguson and Diane Pepper.
“The format of the petitions is that when it gets here every signature page has to have been notarized and the directors check to see if every signature is a registered voter,” he began.
Campbell said initially there was some confusion when copies of the petitions given to Wood’s camp in an open records request did not show notarization. That was due to the way the sheets were copied, he said. After that issue was handled, he said there were some signatures called into question due to items such as one notarized collector signature for three pages, for instance.
“The directors made the best call they could as far as which ones were in the proper format. Even if we took out all that were in dispute, (Smith) still had enough valid signatures to be on the ballot,” Campbell said.
“Our function at this point is ministerial. We’ve reviewed the signatures and checked the notaries to the best of our ability. I think we are in very firm water with the work the directors have done,” he added. “At this point our job is to put him on the ballot.”
Campbell added “if a candidate has questions there is a process for them to contest that in circuit court.”
Lucinda Luetkemeyer, an attorney for Graves Garrett representing Wood, after the meeting said:
“We respect their view. We asked them to analyze the signatures after we raised these issues. We will have to assess where we go from here.”
She said there is still a question in regard to what is known as the circulator’s affidavit on some signatures.
“There are a couple of folks who indicate the person circulating the petition to them is not the same person who signed the sworn circulator’s affidavit,” Luetkemeyer said.
“We believe that there were irregularities. We will analyze where we go from here. Maybe it means the election just proceeds. Our client has the opportunity to decide whether she wants to bring a lawsuit to challenge the qualifications of her opponent or whether she wants to just continue to campaign and do it that way,” she added.
If Wood decides to seek a challenge in circuit court, that action would have to be filed within five days after Aug. 30. The Aug. 30 date is the certification deadline for the November ballot.
Smith had originally filed as a Republican last spring but was removed from the ballot for failing to provide necessary financial paperwork by the deadline for doing so.
As a candidate for county office, he was required to file a short form personal financial disclosure report with both the county clerk’s office and the Missouri Ethics Commission by the 21st day after the closing of candidate filing.
That deadline was April 19. On April 20, the board of elections was notified by the county clerk of Smith’s failure to file the personal financial disclosure form. The board of elections also contacted the Missouri Ethics Commission and confirmed that Smith had also failed to file the paperwork with the MEC by the April 19 deadline.
The penalty for failure to file that paperwork is removal of the candidate’s name from the ballot. That left only Wood and Roper on the ballot for the Aug. 2 primary.