No one filed for Galatia city posts
Current governing body weighing options
BY DALE HOGG
GALATIA – Among the races on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election were those for mayor and city council of the small, northwest Barton County community of Galatia. However, no one filed for mayor or for any of the five council positions, there were no write-in candidates, and no one voted.
“This has never happened in my years here,” said County Clerk Donna Zimmerman, who also serves as the county’s election officer. She has worked in the Clerk’s Office since 1983 and been clerk since 1995.
The topic came up Monday morning as county commissioners met in Zimmerman’s office as the Board of County Canvassers.
So, for now, she said it’s is up to the current mayor and council, who must act before their terms are up at the end of the year. They are looking at three options:
• First, they could appoint their replacements.
• Second, they could pass a charter ordinance reducing the number of council seats from five to two, and appoint them. This could make it easier to field a full roster of candidates.
• Third, they could change from an incorporated city to an unincorporated one. This would mean Galatia would have no municipal government, and instead be subject to the actions of the County Commission.
The current Galatia governing body includes:
• Mayor - Kevin Polzin
• Councilman — Robert Kolas
• Councilman — Michael Guertin
• Councilman — Josh Keil
• Councilwoman — Susan Funk
• Councilman — Dennis Funk
Longtime Galatia residents Steve and Donna Wilhelm, who both have served multiple terms in elected posts there, have moved out of the city limits, Zimmerman said. So, they are no longer eligible to run for office.
Council members meet at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the city office, 150 W. Floyd St.
Located at the intersection of NW 100 Ave. and NW 190 Rd (Railroad Ave.), Galatia is home to St. Paul Lutheran Church ELCA, United Ag Services elevator, several small homes, and a cemetery at the northernmost end of the five-block long Main Street.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Galatia has a population of 36.
At the end of the Nov. 2 general election canvass Monday morning, two things were clear. First, there were no significant changes in the election outcome and, second, voter turnout was low.
“Overall, it was kind of a sad voter turnout,” said County Clerk Donna Zimmerman. But, with this being an off-season election, “it was kind of to be expected.”
She was speaking to County Commissioners Barb Esfeld, Kirby Krier, Shawn Hutchinson and Jim Daily, who met in her office as the Board of County Canvassers. Joined by Bailey Rankin, Clerk’s Office general ledger/real estate clerk, their job was to sift through the provisional ballots – those cast in the wrong polling places, by voters who moved within the county or changed names, or who were not registered properly.
In all, they had 29 of these. However, after attempts were made to call the voters and confirm the votes, they ended up with only 28 valid ballots.
The final vote total for Barton County showed 3,482 out of the registered 16,076 voters participated. This made the turnout 21.66%
The purpose of the canvass
Zimmerman said voters can vote provisionally up to and on election day. Those voters have through the Monday after the election to contact her office for confirmation.
But, Voter Registration Clerk Darin DeWitt said they try as much as possible to work with those who don’t contact their office.
“Our goal is to have everyone count, but we have to follow state statutes,” DeWitt said.
The commissioners and other county officials gathered around a table in a back room of the County Clerk’s Office to open the large yellow envelopes containing the ballots. Once they gave the go-ahead, the ballots were fed through the optical scanner and saved onto a thumb drive.
That data was then entered into the county’s election software. However, there were two ballots that would not read digitally and were entered by hand into the system by a pair of Clerk’s Office staff to assure voter security.
Last Thursday, county personnel from outside the Clerk’s Office audited two precincts and two races. This showed the results from Tuesday night were “spot on,” Zimmerman said.
On Monday, she certified the results to various county entities. Next, she forwarded them to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office.
The voting equipment
The county has 13 of these scanners, Zimmerman said. One of them had issues on election night.
“I love the electronics,” she said. “It’s wonderful when it works.”
The glitch didn’t cause any miscounts, just a few ballots wouldn’t scan in one of the scanners. It just required a slight delay in results and a little more work for Zimmerman’s office.
The Barton County Commission in the spring of 2019 approved purchasing new voting equipment from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software. This replace a system that had been in place for over a decade and was showing its age.
This is a hybrid system. Voters have the option to cast electronic or paper ballots, but either way, be there will be paper ballots created that can be counted as many times as needed.
There are now 53 of these voting machines, plus associated poll pads used by poll workers to check in voters.
She said they will contact the company about the problem. It may just be a matter of cleaning and re-calibrating the problem scanner.
However, Zimmerman told commissioners Monday that they have outgrown the election trailer used for delivering the equipment to the polling stations. The Road and Bridge and Noxious Weeds departments help deliver the machines to the sites.