County clerk: Hannibal's runoff elections pose law 'issues'

Posted: Apr. 17, 2017 4:59 pm

Count Marion County Clerk Valerie Dornberger among those who thinks the city of Hannibal should rethink its policy regarding runoff elections, such as the one scheduled Tuesday, April 18, in the Fifth Ward.

"I just feel it’s really not needed," she said Monday after helping prepare Prince Avenue Baptist Church, the Fifth Ward election site, for Tuesday’s vote.

Dornberger cites the potential violation of election law as her primary issue with the practice, which the city charter requires to occur between the top two vote-getters in any municipal election in which there are three or more candidates seeking the same office and none receives over 50 percent of the votes cast.

"I really fear that there’s an issue with following election law because there should be a six-week period for absentee balloting," she said. "There should be a two-week notice of the election prior which is next to impossible for me to do when the (runoff) election is two weeks after the April election."

Sample ballots for Tuesday’s election appeared in the April 14 and April 15 editions of the Courier-Post.

"I tried to get it in two different weeks as the law specifies, but there isn’t time to do that when you have a two-week turnaround," said Dornberger.

The cost of the runoff, which is the city’s responsibility, is another item worth consideration, according to the county clerk.

"It’s a lot of expense to the city of Hannibal that’s not necessary," said Dornberger.

Election costs include computer programming, ballot printing, the pay for election judges and publication costs.

"I won’t know the (runoff election’s) cost until all the bills come in," said Dornberger.

Hannibal City Clerk Angel Zerbonia has a ballpark estimate regarding what the runoff will cost the city.

"Being it only involves one ward specifically, I assume it will be about half what we would normally pay, which is $12,000 to $13,000," she said.

Money has not been set aside to cover the runoff’s cost.

"The city has an election budget line item, in General Expenditures, which after the municipal election, will go over the budgeted amount," said Zerbonia. "I will have to request a budget amendment from the City Council and will work with the finance director to determine where the actual dollars will come from."

While she would encourage doing away with the runoff practice, Dornberger acknowledges she won’t have a say in the matter.

"The city fathers have to decide if it’s right for them," she said. "I just wish they would consider taking a look at that."

Doing away with runoff votes would not be a decision made at City Hall.

"Any changes to the charter need to be approved by a majority vote of the people," said Zerbonia.

Runoff races in Hannibal are rare. The last such election occurred in April 2010 when there was not one, but two races which met the city’s runoff criteria. Those races featured candidates from the Second and Third Wards.

The Second Ward runoff matched Mike Dobson and Joe Lyng. In the Third Ward, Lou Barta squared off against Roy Que Ferrel Jr.

Dobson and Barta prevailed in the runoffs.

Prior to 2010, the last runoff had taken place in 2001 when Jason Janes, the runner-up in the municipal election, edged out incumbent George Danforth in the runoff.

Tuesday’s election pits Colin Welch, the top vote-getter on April 4, against Gordon Ipson, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of now-mayor James Hark.


Reach reporter Danny Henley at


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