Josh Waddell was elected to the USD 489 school board in last week’s election. He received the second most votes, but was not legally qualified to serve because he had not been registered to vote in Ellis County. Waddell spoke with Eagle News to explain what happened.
“In 2011 when I redid my drivers license they asked me if I wanted to register to vote and I said yes. At that point in time I thought I was a registered voter in Ellis County. I was gone during the presidential election in 2012 for training for my job so I was not able to vote. Had I voted I would have found out then that I had not registered.
“When I went through the school board application, I’m finding out now that apparently there was a phone call and voicemail left to me for vote registration issues. I never received that voicemail. I’m not going to take the stance that the county clerks office is lying, I’m just going to take the stance that I never received that.
“I had numerous phone calls with the county clerk and that was never brought up in any of those phone conversations either. So it wasn’t until the Thursday after voter registration had closed out that I found out I wasn’t a registered voter and I found out by trying to find out what I had marked – I wanted to show unaffiliated. I didn’t know if that is what I had marked or not when I did my voter registration and that is when I found out I wasn’t technically a registered voter. At that time I said ‘Well what do I do?’ and I was instructed by the county clerk that it is irrelevant it doesn’t matter, it’s not required for school board elections.
“Just come up after the election and register if you want to be a voter and of course I did that and now I find out it’s a pretty big issue that could have been remedied over the course of two and a half months had I consciously known I was not a registered voter.
“Now I take full responsibility for not following up for not looking for a registration card but quite frankly that was out of sight out of mind. I didn’t think of it that way but I definitely should have, I should have known for sure that by checking when I never received a voter registration card, that I wasn’t looking for but I definitely have to take some responsibility in the situation.
“But by no means was it intentional and by no means did I get advised to become a registered voter and just ignore that advice. You don’t go through a campaign and spend your own money just to be disqualified in the end. That is not what anyone would set out to do. I’m a little frustrated that I don’t believe the county clerk office is not reporting things accurately.
“None the less at the end of the day I wasn’t a registered voter in Ellis County.
“There was a message from the county clerks office I called back on but it pertained to campaign funding and whether I wanted to fill out that form ahead of time or wait ’till the end. I called back and discussed it and at that time nothing about voter registration was mentioned to me.
“I think the situation could have been handled differently but I’m not willing to take the stance and blame all this on the county clerk’s office. I just the wish the process for the application to the school board election could have been thoroughly reviewed so we could have avoided anything if there were qualifications that candidates were missing.”
Waddell agreed that voter registration for elected office needs to be clarified, to avoid a similar situation in the future.
“I can’t apologize to the community enough. It was completely unintentional there was no malice. I didn’t try to circumvent any of the state laws. That was not what was done here. I would never intentionally try to avoid registering. I feel bad for all the people that have lent me support and wrote letters on behalf of me. I apologize to the community. I can’t say that with enough sincerity. I did not mean to put the community, the school board and those who supported me in that position. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to be on the board of education because I believe in myself and my ability to work with others and that I thought I could be a positive influence moving forward especially with so much change in the next few months. I don’t know whether I will have that option at this time. I don’t know how it will work out.”
Waddell believes USD 489 now has two options, “The existing board has the ability to accept the election results as they are or they can choose to go with the recommendation of the board attorney and create a vacancy in that position. If a vacancy is created then the new board that takes office on July 1 will appoint someone to fill that position.”
Click the link below to listen to Waddell’s interview.