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New Amsterdam election to be at-large

The Harrison County Election Board ruled last Wednesday afternoon that New Amsterdam Town Council candidates must run at-large ‘ not in designated wards ‘ during a hearing that was recessed from the previous day on the first floor of the Harrison County Court House.
The unanimous decision was made after a five-page complaint was filed by a number of New Amsterdam residents against clerk-treasurer Melissa D. Shaffer for ‘dereliction of duties in withholding vital election information from the town council by proposing without valid verification of an ordinance of wards, to have this year’s election for town council positions ran by wards … ‘
One of the complaint signees was town council president and candidate Lee McCullum.
‘I’ve been on the board for 10 years … and I’ve never heard anything about wards,’ McCullum told the election board. ‘There wasn’t an election until (2011), and we ran at-large … It seems to me, if it was wards, we should know that.’
Shaffer said she thought the election should be run with candidates in wards 1, 2 and 3, as it always has been done, and said McCullum even signed up as a ward 1 candidate in 2011.
The complaint said Shaffer was attempting to ‘commandeer the town of New Amsterdam’s 2015 election … to give her relatives a self-serving uncontested appointment to the majority of the candidacy seats … ‘
All Indiana towns were designated with wards or districts when they were established, but, in the 1970s, towns had to reorganize and file at-large or ward requirements with the county clerk’s office.
No evidence exists that New Amsterdam filed ward distinction with the county.
The original town plat, from 1815, which was a year before Indiana became a state, also could not be found. (New Amsterdam is planning a bicentennial celebration for next month).
Election board officials said it is thought that those records and others from that era were mistakingly taken to Indianapolis when the capitol moved from Corydon to Indianapolis.
The only evidence for wards was a map with hand-drawn lines, done by Shaffer, of the three wards.
‘We don’t have anything showing what the wards are,’ election board member Gordon Ingle said. ‘All we have is her (Shaffer’s) written document.’
Lee Cotner, attorney for Shaffer, said Shaffer’s records of the wards should be considered correct since she’s the clerk-treasurer.
McCullum said New Amsterdam isn’t large enough to be broken into wards. In one ward, as drawn by Shaffer, there would be only one person living in the ward, so he’d automatically get the town council seat.
‘We don’t have an option,’ McCullum said. ‘That’s not what elections are for.’
Following the vote for an at-large election, members of the election board told those New Amsterdam residents and council persons present that next year they’ll need to establish the rules, officially.
The ruling meant the four Republican candidates would have to be trimmed to three in what county party chairman Scott Fluhr said is the first town convention he knew of in Harrison County.
On Friday night, incumbents Regina F. Glass and Lee McCullum and newcomer Patrick Thompson all received six votes to move on to the General Election. David Harter, with only two votes, was the odd man out.
Glass, McCullum and Thompson will be joined on the ballot by Democrat Charles (Andy) Shaffer.
Voters will choose three to sit on the town council on election day (Nov. 3).

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