Bill moving city, school board elections close to vote on Senate floor; widely opposed in NEJC

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A controversial bill in the Kansas Legislature that would move municipal and school board elections to the fall is expected to come to the Senate floor on Thursday, according to Sen. Kay Wolf.

The bill originally was written to make the city elections partisan and moved them to the fall of even-numbered years. However, as it goes to the Senate floor, it does not contain the mandatory partisan election provision and it allows the elections to be held in odd-numbered years, keeping them off the state and federal election cycle.

It was Wolf’s vote in committee last week that let the bill advance. “I did initially vote no and the bill failed,” Wolf wrote. “However, it most certainly would have been brought back up again and likely changed to partisan races (and even years). Considering this, I thought it best to bring it to the flooor as is (odd years and non-partisan) for a vote rather than take a chance on it being amended and then sent to the floor.” Wolf last week said she will vote against it on the floor.

She still expects amendments to make the elections partisan and move them to even years. However, Wolf believes the amendments have a better chance of being defeated on the floor than in committee.

The current bill still allows cities the option to make their own elections partisan, a provision in current law. Several northeast Johnson County elected officials have spoken out recently about a potential forced change to partisan elections and the move to fall. Most recently, the Merriam City Council passed a resolution opposing SB 171 and any provision for partisan elections.

Last week Westwood mayor John Yé said the mayors had discussed the bill may times. “I have not heard one northeast Johnson County mayor in favor of this.” Prairie Village Mayor Laura Wassmer and Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt also spoke against the bill at the last city council meeting.

A long list of cities, school boards, community colleges and professional organizations have registered their opposition to the bill. The bill also requires schools to provide a polling place for elections when requested to do so. The original bill had required election day to be an in-service day for teachers.

More details on the bill can be found in the following links:

Bill as originally introduced

Amended version of the bill

Supplemental note on the bill