House bill would move municipal elections

By Hannah Swank
KU Statehouse Wire Service

Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City Democrat, said the House Elections Committee is trying to solve a problem it hasn’t been asked to solve with HB 2227, a bill that would move municipal elections to the fall of odd-numbered years.

House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Scott Schwab (R- Olathe) introduced HB 2227 in February 2013 and while the bill currently does not propose partisan elections, Wolfe Moore said this type of election wouldn’t work well in local venues.

“This is the first step to the next bill where we’ll be making these into partisan races,” Wolfe Moore said. “Even if these elections stay non-partisan and they are held in August or November, there will be a partisan overlay.”

HB 2227 would move municipal primary elections to August and general elections to November of odd-numbered years. The elected officials would begin terms in January of the following year.

Clay Barker, Executive Director of the Kansas Republican Party, testified as a bill proponent saying the goals of the KRP includes making municipal elections partisan since both the KRP and the Kansas Democratic Party involve themselves in select local races.

In written testimony outlining the problems with current spring elections, goals and recommendations for HB 2227, KRP Chair Tom Arnold said: “Aligning with a political party creates a foundation of resources to allow the candidate’s message to be better disseminated to the voters. Partisan designations by candidates give clear signals to voters on the candidate’s general political philosophy and view on issues.”

House Elections Committee Member Rep. John Carmichael (D- Wichita) also said the bill is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

“What is most concerning is when Clay Barker explains to us the real purpose of this bill is to turn municipal elections and school board elections into partisan elections,” Carmichael said. “That would not be good for the democratic process. It’s also concerning when he says the current rules of the Kansas Republican Party require them to participate in these supposedly non-partisan elections.”

Frank Henderson, President of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said holding school board elections in November and having newly elected board members begin their terms seven months into the fiscal year and halfway through the academic year could be very counter-productive and create a platform for making poor decisions.

“An even-year election would force board races to the very bottom of the ballot, but more importantly, allow important school issues to be lost in the din of state and national races,” Henderson said.

Schwab closed oral testimony for HB 2227 on Monday but written testimony will be accepted by the committee until Wednesday.

Published by:
The Salina Journal

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