Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Despite its five city council seats up for election in November, only two candidates have filed to run in the population 144 city of West Chester: Council Members Ron Carey and Justin Banks, both incumbents.
Current council member Vanessa Wasson plans to leave her position to run for mayor, where she is slated to run unopposed. Council members Andrew Barnhart and Rochelle Bush-Allen did not file to run again.
Washington County Deputy Election Administrator Sue Meeks said the situation could set the stage for successful write-in campaigns.
“It’s a case where the most votes wins, so that is very possible,” she said. “Hopefully, if somebody seriously wants it, they’ll get the word out to where they get more than one vote, or just them voting for themselves, but yes, it would take very few votes to get the position.”
For context, the city’s council members received a range of 8-15 votes each in the last election.
It’s not a new problem for the city. In 2015, only four candidates ran with names on the ballot, but with 13 write-ins, Steve Lippard won the fifth council seat. Even if there were no write-ins, the other four council members would have had the ability to appoint a fifth.
Theoretically, this election could be different. State code dictates that official city action, such as an appointment, happens only during official city meetings. To hold those meetings, the council needs a quorum of over half its city council members. If only two of those seats were held, quorum would become impossible.
In such a situation, state law requires the city and county to call a special election at the “earliest practicable date.” The first valid election date in Iowa in the next city term is March 1, 2022.
While theoretically possible, Meeks said such an outcome was unlikely. In 2015, 2017 and 2019, the city had five, 10 and six scattering write-in votes, respectively, suggesting that at least a handful of residents have an ongoing interest in the positions.
“The highest write-in vote-getters would have to all decline to serve, because even then, you move down to the next highest vote-getters,” she said. “Going through all of those, it’s unlikely that there wouldn’t be winner. And even then, the (current) council can appoint a replacement before the end of its term, if it’s not challenged to hold a special election, which seems unlikely with so few people filing to run.”