Kansas State Senator Kay Wolf has tried to temper a bill that considerably alters the way municipal and school board elections are held. It would not only move the elections from spring — when they are now held — to the fall cycle, but it would also dictate that political party precinct committee members fill vacancies.
Wolf attempted to remove school boards from the change entirely, but that amendment, one of several she proposed, failed in committee. The measure, now traveling under HB 2141, passed out of committee last week. It is widely opposed by school boards and municipalities and Wolf voted against the version to come out of committee.
Sen. Wolf was successful in exempting county commissioners, community colleges and water district elections from the bill. She said the way the exemption currently reads, it could cause an extra election in the spring. Wolf will work on correcting that with an amendment if it reaches the Senate floor, she said.
The school board and municipal elections are still non partisan under the bill, but party precinct committee members from both political parties will meet to fill any vacancy that occurs in their geographic jurisdiction. In its original version, only the committee members from the same party as exiting board member would have filled the vacancy. That, Wolf said, injected partisanship into the changes.
Vacancies now are filled by the remaining board members or council seats are often appointed by the mayor with council consent. In Roeland Park, a special election is used to fill council vacancies. That would be prohibited by the new law if it makes it through the Legislature this year.
Besides the change in time of year, the method used for Shawnee Mission School Board elections would no longer be allowed. Five of the members are elected by voters in geographic districts. That would still be allowed in the primary, but in the general election, voters would vote for candidates in all the districts, not just where they live.
The cycle change would also mean that successful school board candidates would take office in January. That is another source of objection since for schools the year really starts July 1.
The elections will be held in odd-numbered years, so it will require considerable changes for implementation. The bill is now eligible to come to the Senate floor. Another bill on moving elections remains in House committee.