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Bismarck runoff election May 9

Bismarck residents living in the city’s second ward need to circle the date of May 9 on their calendars because that’s when a runoff election will be held to determine the winner of the April 4 municipal election for alderman that ended in a 37-37 tie between incumbent Carol Baker and her opponent, Keith Colwell.

While it had been anticipated that a coin toss would be used at Thursday’s Bismarck Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Seth Radford surprised the crowd by announcing that one of the candidates had requested a runoff election be held instead to determine the winning candidate.

Although Radford didn’t announce which candidate asked for a special election, Colwell expressed his surprise and disapproval at the end of the city meeting that a coin toss hadn’t been used to decide the issue.

Candidates in St. Francois County elections that result in a tie are given a choice of deciding the means of selecting the ultimate victor in their race — be it by tossing a coin, drawing straws or holding a runoff election. While holding a special election places the decision back into the hands of the voters, it also brings with it an often hefty expense that is the responsibility of the municipality to pay.

County Clerk Mark Hedrick announced the date for the special election during Tuesday morning’s meeting of the St. Francois County Commission.

“The runoff election will only be for Ward 2 in the city of Bismarck,” he said. “It will only affect one precinct and the city will pay the total cost of that.”

Hedrick said that everything will run like a “regular” election — except on a smaller scale. Absentee voting begins today.

“On election day we’ll be open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.,” he said. “We will certify and do everything that night when they come in. We are not using the machines. We are using ballots and we’re going to hand count them like in the past. That will save costs to the city to run this election.”

In response to a question from Commissioner Gay Wilkerson about how many registered voters are in the ward, Hedrick replied, “They have 410 registered voters in that ward. So, if everyone voted it would be 410 votes. It will probably be less than that.”

Hedrick noted that there is only one poling place in Bismarck — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6947, located at 1008 Veterans Drive — and that won’t change for the runoff election.

“We just found out yesterday about it,” he said. “We have the ballots ready and we’re ready to go with that part. We’ll be open Monday, May 8 just for absentee voting because that’s actually a state holiday — Truman’s birthday. So, the county will be closed, but we will be open. We will also be open the Saturday prior to that, May 6, until noon for absentee voting.

Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher asked who would cover the cost of the extra hours for the county clerk’s office employees.

“That will be paid by the city,” Hedrick said. “I ball-parked the cost [for the entire election] at $2,000-$3,000, but I’m going to keep it as low as I can just to help them. I do it every time there is a special election for anything. I try to keep the cost down for my staff and not doing the machines will save quite a bit because programming the machines is very costly. It doesn’t matter if you have one or you have 100 races, it still costs a lot of money to program the machines.

“All we’re doing is printing the ballots. That’s going to actually not be very expensive. I thought it was going to be higher than what we actually got quoted on, so that’s going to keep the cost down. Then, we’re only going to have four poll workers, which is required by law. I have to have four and that’s all we’re going to have. Regular poll workers get $100. The supervisors get $125 — and if you’ve ever been one, that’s not enough money for a long day. It’s going to be a long day because it will not be very busy with only having one race on the ballot. We’re going to have two people do certification that night along with the two supervisors that bring the ballots back.”

Hedrick assured the commissioners that, even though he was cutting the number of workers to keep down costs for the city, the election would still be legal.

“The runoff election will only be for Ward 2 in the city of Bismarck.” — County Clerk Mark Hedrick

Baker

Baker

Colwell

Colwell

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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