Candidates campaigning and asking for voters’ support for a seat on the Stephenville city council oftentimes do not cast a ballot themselves a search of voting records shows.
As Election Day draws nearer for council and mayor hopefuls, the Empire-Tribune decided to review the candidates’ personal voting records. Voting rosters for both early voting and Election Day from 2007, as well as previous years, are public record and kept on file at city hall.
Although one council candidate, Chris Gifford, was not a resident of the city at the time of last year’s election, a few have claimed residency in Stephenville for several years, and according to voting rosters, have not cast a ballot in a local election.
Records provided by City secretary Cindy Stafford, including years 2003, 2004 and two elections in 2005, as well as 2007, show that the majority of candidates take casting a ballot seriously, visiting the polls every time an election is held.
Voting rosters from the 2006 city election were not available, said Stafford, as municipalities and other jurisdictions that hold elections across the state are only required to keep them on file for a period of 60 days following an election. Year 2006 election rosters had apparently been discarded. A new law requires voting rosters to be kept on file for at least one year.
Of the candidates running for mayor, all voted the 2007 city elections, including Joe Cude, Nancy Hunter, Mark Murphy, Barry Ratliff and Pat Shelbourne.
Among this year’s council candidates, four cast ballots last year, including Virginia Abel, Don Zelman, Alan Nix, Russ McDanel and Malcolm Cross.
Not voting were Sara Boen, Scott Evans and Chris Gifford. According to the candidate’s application, Gifford has only lived in the city of Stephenville for eight months and could not vote locally.
Boen, Place 8 candidate, who has been a resident of the city for nearly three years, admits she has never cast a ballot in a Stephenville city election, but cast her first vote locally in the March 4 primary election.
“I hadn’t normally been involved with what has been going on with city council,” said Boen when asked why she hasn’t voted locally. “Only in the last year have I watched them closely.”
Boen says that if she had been a lifelong resident of the city, “that would be a different story.”
“There’s been one city election, last year, and I didn’t vote in it,” she said. “There’s been just one election since I’ve registered. If I had been here 20 years and hadn’t voted I wouldn’t ask anyone to vote for me.”
Another council candidate who did not cast a ballot in last year’s local election was Evans, council candidate for Place 8. He reportedly lived outside of the city limits and was only eligible to vote until recently. Calls to Evans were not returned for comment.
The city election voting participation of those running for mayor and city council dating back to 2003, include:
(Note that in 2005 there were two elections, one of which was a special called election by the city. There are no voting rosters available from 2006.)
Virginia Abel - Place 6: 2005 (regular election) and 2007; Sara Boen - Place 8: did not register to vote locally until after last year’s city election; Malcolm Cross - Place 2: 2004, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Joe Cude - Mayor: 2003, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Scott Evans - Place 8: did not vote in the 2007 election and only recently moved into the city limits; Chris Gifford - Place 4: has only been a resident of the city of Stephenville for eight months and is now a registered voter; Nancy Hunter - Mayor: 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Russ McDanel - Place 4: 2005 (regular election) and 2007; Mark Murphy - Mayor: 2004, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Alan Nix - Place 6: 2003, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Barry Ratliff - Mayor: 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Pat Shelbourne - Mayor: 2004 and 2007; and Don Zelman - Place 4: 2003, 2005 (regular election) and 2007.
Among those currently seated on the city council, here are their personal voting appearances in recent city elections: Mayor Rusty Jergins - 2003, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Andrew Johnson - 2003, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; Alan Nash - 2003, 2005 (both elections) and 2007; and Todd McEvoy - 2005 (both elections) and 2007.