GIPS board member-elect cleared by County Attorney, Election Commissioner
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) (Press release)-- The Hall County Election Commission, in cooperation with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the Hall County Attorney’s Office, has completed a residency review of Katherine Mauldin, a candidate-elect for Grand Island Public School Board in Ward C.
“After a careful and detailed review of Ms. Mauldin’s residency by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, as it pertains to Nebraska Election Law, we believe that Ms. Mauldin was a legal and valid candidate throughout the election period,” said Hall County Attorney Marty Klein. “I don’t see any legal reason why Ms. Mauldin should not be sworn into office.”
“This review was prompted by a December 9 letter from Grand Island Public Schools indicating that candidate-elect Katherine Mauldin did not meet the requirements to hold office and that the district would not swear Mauldin into office,” said Hall County Election Commissioner Tracy Overstreet. “Specifically, the school district reported it had investigated Mauldin’s residency and determined that Mauldin lived in school district Ward A instead of the Ward C boundaries that she was elected to represent.”
During the residency review, the commission looked at Mauldin’s voter registration documents, voting history, driver’s license information, Social Security information and property records. The commission also asked the Hall County Sheriff’s Office to provide assistance in obtaining other information commonly used in residency evaluations, such as utility bills, lease agreements and in-person reports of where Mauldin lives. This information was sought for three key points during the 2022 election cycle – January 18, 2022 when Mauldin filed for office, the May 10, 2022 primary election and the November 8, 2022 general election. Consultation with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office was also made.
“Under current Nebraska law, election officials are charged with vetting a candidate’s eligibility to run for office at the time of filing,” Overstreet said. “That vetting was done and shows that when Mauldin filed to run for Grand Island Public School Board, she was a registered voter at 645 Joehnck Road in Grand Island and had been so since October 23, 2020.” 645 Joehnck Road is in Ward C of the Grand Island Public School District.
State law requires that a school board candidate be a registered voter at the time of filing, live within the district, and live within the respective ward, if the district uses a ward system. (§32-602, 32-543, 79-543, 79-550). Grand Island Public Schools moved from an at-large school board to ward representation in 1994.
The two other key dates during the election cycle that were reviewed pertain to when votes were cast – the May 10 primary and the November 8 general elections. Data derived during the review shows that Mauldin moved twice in 2022. In March, she appears to have moved to Clay County and in July she moved back to Hall County to an apartment complex in Ward A. Mauldin was contacted by phone in April by the Hall County Election Office and she reported that although she and her family were considering selling their Grand Island home, they had not done so and continued to reside in Ward C. She voted in her Ward C polling place at both the May 10 primary election and the November 8 general election. During the primary, her residency was questioned by election officials at her polling place and she signed the statutorily-required challenge oath in order to be allowed to cast a ballot.
“During this review, her residency was looked at even more closely and appears to meet the letter of the law as it pertains to residency at the key points in time,” Overstreet stated. “Ms. Mauldin maintains that she has both a primary and a secondary residence and that she stays at both, but that the primary residence is in Ward C.”
Her driver’s license has been issued under the Ward C address, her vehicle is licensed at the Ward C address, as well as state licenses, bank statements, credit cards and bills. She receives mail at the Ward C address, including her election mail – her voter registration card, her certificate of nomination and her certificate of election were all sent and received at her Ward C address.
When it comes to defining residency, other key factors in state law include what’s called “intent to return” and a review of where your family is. In this case, Ms. Mauldin’s three children all reside at the Ward C address and she returns to that address multiple times a week. She appears to have “intent to return” to the Ward C address, Overstreet said.
“While this may not be what the public commonly recognizes as the definition of where one resides, it is the state definition and has gray area in it specifically for candidates and officeholders,” Overstreet said. “Think about state senators who are elected to serve in Lincoln. Many get apartments in Lincoln and live there close to half the year when the Unicameral is in session, yet they have an “intent to return” to their local address and continue to use that address for voting and election purposes. The same situation is true for Congressional representatives, who may live most of the year or even full-time in Washington D.C., yet still have a permanent Nebraska address where they have an “intent to return.”
When registering voters, if residency or where one lives is a question, we often ask “Where do you sleep at night?” Overstreet said. If fact, in some Nebraska jurisdictions because of the way boundary lines have been drawn, the where one sleeps at night answer – as in what side of the house a bedroom is – could be the determination on what political subdivision one is in. But there is no specific length of time a voter or candidate has to spend at that address. This length of time leniency comes in to play also for voters who are in the military, who are in college, who are in nursing homes or who are overseas.
“Residency is not a black and white issue, it is very gray and why we took a deeper dive on this question to ensure that our records were accurate and that we are following Nebraska’s election laws properly,” Overstreet said.
“But at the end of the day, our review is our review,” Overstreet stated. “It pertains to election law and what happened at three key points in time – January 18 candidate filing, May 10 voting and November 8 voting. This office stands by the results presented.”
After an election, the final review of any candidate-elect is the responsibility of the political subdivision.
The governing body of a political subdivision is charged with vetting candidates-elect prior to swearing in. (§32-602(5) and “shall determine whether the person meets all requirements . . . "
If there is a vacancy in any elective office (§32-560,) Nebraska law gives the political subdivision the authority to declare a vacancy and proceed with an appointment (§32-567 and §32-570.) School districts have authority to appoint a replacement for the duration of the term, Overstreet said.
Local4 reached out to GIPS and Katherine Mauldin following these findings.
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