July 24, 2024

Disputes over candidate residencies could prevent them from appearing on ballot

Newton citizens living in respective wards have until Sept. 26 to file objections

Two potential candidates running for Newton City Council say they live within their respective ward boundaries, but others allege they primarily live in the county.

Two potential candidates for Newton City Council own properties in the respective wards they are campaigning to represent, but questions have arose over whether those homes are their primary residences. If not, it may affect whether they appear on the ballot if citizens choose to file objections.

Some have questioned whether Julia Prendergast, who is running for Ward 1, and Barney Bushore, who is running for Ward 3, can truly run for city council if they have primary residences outside city limits. Newton News contacted both Prendergast and Bushore, who claim they do live within their wards.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, the Jasper County Republican Party said, “HEADS UP!!! Some of these candidates do not live within the city. Therefore, technically, they are not allowed to run. If you want fairness in our city council, please PM on how to officially go about getting these candidates removed.”

While some claim Bushore lives at 3653 Highway S-74 S., which is a property he does own, he told Newton News in a recent phone interview that his home at 1901 S. Seventh Ave. E. is his “legal residence.” Bushore offered no further comment other than, “My legal residence is in town. That’s the end of it.”

Prendergast also told Newton News in a phone interview that her legal residence at 429 E. Seventh St. N. resides within the ward she is running for, saying the address also matches her driver’s license. However, some claim Prendergast lives at the property at 3173 Highway T-12 N., which she does own.

“I have a house in the country,” Prendergast said, noting it is not a rental property and is a second home. “I have lots of properties everywhere. But my main residence is the 429. That’s my legal residence. That’s what’s on my driver’s license … I’ve had it since about July. I had someone move out.”

Both Bushore and Prendergast announced their campaigns for city council during a private event organized by the Newton Business Council on Sept. 14.

Immediately following the event, the Jasper County Auditor’s Office and other county officials began getting calls from citizens inquiring about the would-be candidates’ residency requirements. Jasper County Auditor Jenna Jennings told callers the county is not the filing officer for the school and city elections.

The auditor’s office also doesn’t officially recognize candidates until paperwork is submitted. Candidates will have to turn in their filing documents to city clerks or school secretaries by Sept. 21. Then the cities and school districts have until noon on Sept. 22 to turn in the candidate paperwork to the auditor’s office.

Taylor Springer, deputy auditor, said city clerks and school secretaries cannot check or verify information on candidate documents. Springer said they have to take documents at face value. As long as everything that is legally required to be on the paperwork is there, they will accept the paperwork.

“They don’t go looking up addresses or anything,” Springer said. “They are not allowed to do that. They accept candidate paperwork on face value.”

Although the auditor’s office is in charge of organizing and running elections, Springer said they cannot deter any person from running. However, citizens can file objections to any candidate. Jennings said any candidate objections must be filed with the respective city or school.

Of course, this process cannot be started until after candidate paperwork has been filed by the auditor’s office. The objection deadline is 5 p.m. Sept. 26.

Newton City Clerk Katrina Davis said objections have to be filed with the city by an eligible voter who lives in the respective ward the candidate is running for. An objection needs to be specific. When it is filed, the city has a week to hold a hearing with the person filing the objection and the potential candidate.

The hearing is conducted by a three-person panel featuring the mayor, the city clerk and one council member chosen by the Newton City Council, which would require a special meeting. Both the person filing the objection and the potential candidate would be able to argue their points and provide evidence.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.