New state election law could affect Roeland Park’s practice of special elections to fill vacancies

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An ordinance that would change the election cycle for mayor and city council members in Roeland Park will get more discussion, specifically about the city’s ability to continue its practice of holding special elections to fill vacancies.

A sample ordinance before the council this week addressed getting the city’s election cycle in line with the requirements of a 2015 state law that affects local elections by moving them to November of odd-numbered years.

Roeland Park already holds its elections in the odd-numbered years, but historically that has occurred in April. To comply with the new law, the 2017 elections must be held in November with the winners taking office in January 2018.

The ordinance before the council extends the terms for all the governing body members whose terms expire in both 2017 and 2019 (all of the current members) to the following January – or an additional nine months in office.

Council members recently elected in Prairie Village, Mission and Westwood will have shorter than normal terms to line up with the new law.

Roeland Park, unlike most surrounding cities, fills a vacancy by holding a special election rather than appointing someone to fill an unexpired term. The new state law requires vacancies to be filled within 60 days, a time limit with which the current city ordinance on appointments does not comply.

Roeland Park Council President Becky Fast said she wants to continue the special election process. City Attorney Neil Shortlidge said the city will have to consult with the Johnson County Election Office to determine if a special election logistically can be held in 60 days. If not, the city may have to revert to an appointment process.

The ordinance will come back for further discussion after more information about special elections is available. Councilor Michael Poppa also asked for the cost of holding the special elections.

Councilors Michael Rhoades and Ryan Kellerman both won special elections to serve on the council.