Several Gardner residents have questioned the use of the felony “check off box” on city council applications submitted to fill a vacancy last month.
Of the six applications submitted, two of the candidates did not “check” the box as to whether they had been convicted of a felony. Dennis Watson and Erik Potter did not check the box. Potter was appointed to fill the vacant position.
A senior citizen questioned why the two applications were not considered incomplete.
Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, Gardner communications manager, said because the applicants indicated they were registered voters it was not necessary for them to check the felony box.
Because Gardner uses an online verification process provided by the Johnson County Election Office to verify a candidate’s elector status, completing the felony check off is not required she said.
“As Mr. Van Potter indicated he is a registered voter (making him a qualified elector, at the determination of the County Election office), it is automatically assumed he has no felony convictions (as said convictions would disqualify him from becoming a registered voter),” Marshall-Oquendo said. “Based on this, Mr. Van Potter, and all other applicants, are not required to check the box indicating they do not have any felony convictions if they are registered voters. Mr. Van Potter followed the instructions on the application form, which allowed him to skip the question regarding felony convictions.”
Gardner uses an online verification process to verify a candidate’s elector status, she said.
According to Whitney Temple, director of communications for the Kansas Secretary of State, “If a person is convicted in any federal court in the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the applicable judicial district will send a notice of the conviction to the Secretary of State’s office. That information is transmitted to the county election office for review and action. This is required by federal law.”
Nationwide there is debate over “ban the box,” a movement to remove questions regarding felony convictions – especially regarding employment.
Currently, Gardner requires employees to undergo background checks before being employed.
Marshall-Oquendo said she was not aware of any discussion to “ban the box.”