Coles County to have consolidated elections

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

Consolidated elections for the Coles County area will take place from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday in various polling places, such as the Newman Catholic Center and the Bridge Lounge of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Positions those in Charleston will be able to vote for are city council member, park commissioner, and board of education members.

The City Council members running are Jeffrey Lahr and Tim Newell, who are both currently council members. Running for park commissioner is Kris Phipps. Both groups of nominees are running unopposed, as two openings are available for council members.

Also running unopposed are the board of education members from Charleston Township 12 North Range 9 East, including Susan Daniels, Scott Clarke and Kelly Miller.

Running against each other are Kevin Oakley and Brian Gough for the board of education members for the remaining congressional townships.

To vote, people have to be registered in the county they are voting in.

Sue Rennels, the Coles County clerk, said it is a little late to register, but people can still register through Thursday because of a grace period.

“Anyone can register at 18,” she said.

If students are registered to vote in Charleston, any previous registration in their hometown is canceled.

“They are not able to vote twice,” Rennels said.

Non-presidential, consolidated elections like Tuesday’s generally have a lower turnout.

City Clerk Deborah Muller said more people should come out to vote.

“It’s kind of a shame because the impact of what happens locally is on people,” Muller said. “Lots of meetings have no one except city staff and reporters. Sometimes people come who are interested, and we’re happy to see them.”

Rennels said voter turnout for students on consolidated elections is usually pitiful.

“We had maybe 50 for the last consolidated election,” she said.

To run for a City Council position in Charleston, nominees are required to have resided within the limits of the municipality for at least one year before election time and must be a registered voter. They cannot owe any money on taxes, or have any other debts with the city.

Muller said even if they have not paid their water bill, that is grounds to be unable to run, as well as more serious debts.

Nominees for City Council cannot have been connected in any way to a felony, and they need to file a petition with required 21 signatures, which is 1 percent of the people who voted in the preceding election in the municipality for mayor.

“This is different for everybody in the county,” Muller said.

They also need a statement of economic interest. If the person running is a part of a company the city hires, they have to disclose this fact, though it does not make them ineligible to run. This needed to be filed before Nov. 24.

Candidates also must have the option of signing and submitting a loyalty oath that declares they are not affiliated with communist organizations or advocate the overthrow of the government.

Muller said this oath used to be required until legislation passed against it because of the nature of government.

“We have a lot of freedoms in this country, one of them being you can have whatever beliefs you want to,” Muller said. “You can’t be forced to sign the loyalty oath.”

Every candidate Muller has encountered has signed this loyalty oath despite the fact that it is not required.

“Most people running are proud to be citizens,” Muller said. “That’s one of the reasons they are running for office.”

Because the two council members are running unopposed, they do not need to do as much to run.

“They will probably post signs and wait for the elections,” Muller said.

Responsibilities of city council members including going to meetings on the first and third Thursday of every month. It is a part time job, with council members able to hold other jobs. Council members make $5,000 a year.

The mayor is also a part-time position; however, Muller said the time the mayor puts in makes it close to full time.

“We have been blessed with mayors that are very conscientious, hardworking,” Muller said. “We are blessed to have council members like that too.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].