In a cliffhanger from last Tuesday’s local elections, college athletic commissioner Scott Crawford won a seat on the Maize school board by two votes.
After an official canvass and provisional ballot count Monday, Crawford received 79 votes to 77 for his opponent, architectural manager Lee Manske. The two candidates ran as write-ins after no one filed to be on the ballot for the USD 266 District 3 open seat.
It was the most-watched race at Monday’s vote canvass, where Sedgwick County officials ruled on which provisional votes to count.
Crawford has a doctorate in education administration and works as the commissioner of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, the governing body for small college and university sports in the state. While the votes were being counted, he was in North Carolina representing the conference at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Contacted by phone in Charlotte, he said he was honored and hopes to help “fix the hurt in the school district,” citing ongoing debates over bond issues, booster money and boundaries.
The most pressing issue is a proposed $83.55 million bond issue to borrow money for school facilities, which voters will approve or disapprove in a June mail-in election.
The bond issue, which Crawford supports, is divided into two parts.
The district proposes to borrow $70.7 million for various improvements including a new early childhood center, storm shelters at Maize High School and a new fine arts addition at Maize South High School. A separate vote will decide whether to borrow another $12.85 to build an indoor swimming facility.
Behind Wichita, Maize is the second-largest school district in Sedgwick County, with an enrollment of about 6,700 students.
Its school board holds a unique place in Kansas history as the first and only elected office that Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker held before she was elected to the U.S. Senate, where she served nearly 20 years.
Crawford said he has no plans to run for Senate. He said he didn’t initially file to run for the school board because he thought incumbent April Barnard would seek re-election.
The write-in candidates came into the canvass Monday morning with Crawford at 77 votes and Manske at 74.
During the initial canvass, the board ruled in favor of counting ballots where voters only wrote in the last name of their candidate.
Manske picked up three votes from that decision to Crawford’s one, bringing Manske to within a single vote at 78-77.
When the provisional votes were counted Monday afternoon, Crawford picked up one additional vote, solidifying his 79-77 win.
The canvassing board was made up of Sedgwick County commissioners Richard Ranzau, Karl Peterjohn, Dave Unruh and Jim Howell, along with county Public Safety Director Marv Duncan, sitting in for Commissioner Tim Norton.
Countywide, 34 votes were tossed because voters didn’t complete the registration process, most likely by failing to provide a required birth certificate or passport to prove citizenship.
Another 11 ballots were jettisoned for voters not providing photo ID at the polls.
Sixty-two mail-in ballots that arrived at the election office after election day were dumped, along with 42 mailed ballots where voters didn’t sign the envelope and three where the signatures didn’t match the signatures on file at the election office.
The board did count two ballots that a husband and wife sent back in the same envelope, which they both signed.
They also gave leeway to some sloppily marked ballots, approving several ballots where the voters circled their choice rather than filling in the ovals as instructed.
Three voters voted twice, once on a machine at the polling place and once by provisional ballot.
Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said she’ll turn those in for investigation of potential attempted voting fraud.
However, she said the double voting probably resulted from people going to the wrong polling place, casting a provisional ballot, and then later voting in their home precinct when they realized the mistake.
She said one of those voters actually returned to the first polling place and asked for their provisional ballot to be canceled.
The canvassing board disqualified all three of those provisional ballots.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.