By Jerry LaMartina
Mission is moving toward formally making its municipal elections nonpartisan, in line with a recommendation from the League of Kansas Municipalities.
The Mission City Council’s Finance and Administration Committee agreed at its Wednesday night meeting to recommend that the council approve at its Jan. 18 meeting a charter ordinance designating the city’s elections as nonpartisan.
Adoption of a charter ordinance in Mission requires approval of two-thirds of the council, and the mayor also votes, City Clerk Martha Sumrall said. For 60 days after the second publication in two consecutive weeks of a notice of the ordinance in the Legal Record, anyone can protest the action through a petition, City Administrator Laura Smith said. If no petition is received, then the ordinance goes into effect on the 61st day.
“Last year, to come into compliance with changes that the legislature made regarding elections, we passed two charter ordinances to bring us into having elections in the fall of odd-numbered years,” Sumrall said. “After we passed those, the league put out a recommendation that the wording include whether you want elections to be partisan or nonpartisan.”
In the April 8, 2016, issue of League News, the League of Kansas Municipalities gave the opinion that a Kansas law, K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 25-2113, “should have included a statement for the governing body to select nonpartisan or partisan elections.”
“Prior law had a presumption that all city elections were nonpartisan, however, the new language does appear to require that the governing body make a selection,” according to the league.
In a column for the Shawnee Mission Post in February 2015, Kansas State Rep. Jarrod Ousley (D-24th District), wrote that nonpartisan elections “kept at bay the rancor of party politics, and kept down campaign costs,” and noted that federal government employees were allowed to participate in nonpartisan elections but not in partisan elections.
The Topeka-based League of Kansas Municipalities is a membership association founded in 1910 whose mission is to advocate for cities in Kansas, provide guidance on new laws and administrative rules, provide training and education for elected city officials and city staffs, and provide news about city governments.