Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker’s surprise resignation today means his replacement will be settling in and getting oriented with only a few months to go before the 2020 presidential election.
Metsker’s resignation was announced this morning by Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab. Shortly afterward, the office announced an open application period for his replacement that will end at 5 p.m. Jan. 6.
From there, the applications will be reviewed and three finalists will be chosen by a six-member committee consisting of representatives of county government and the secretary of state’s office, according to the announcement. The final decision will be made by Schwab’s office. Johnson County is one of four counties in Kansas where the Secretary of State has authority to appoint the election commissioner.
No reason was given for Metsker’s resignation and he had not indicated publicly his intention to leave office. Metsker had not responded to a phone message from the Shawnee Mission Post by late this morning and his office referred questions to the Secretary of State.
Metsker, a former one-term member of the Kansas House, was serving as chair of the Johnson County Republican Party in February 2016 when he was appointed to replace Brian Newby as Johnson County Election Commissioner by then Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Metsker’s term included a contentious few years in which election integrity came under question in Kansas and across the U.S. In 2016, his first election, Metsker’s office was beset by problems with antiquated equipment, slow reporting of results and complaints about absentee ballots being mailed late.
In 2018, and in the wake of a national conversation about foreign interference in the election, the county premiered a new hybrid voting machine from ES&S designed to provide a paper trail of the electronic votes. That election was also marred by late reporting of totals due to a coding glitch, as well as other problems with tabulating equipment and questions about how the office counted provisional ballots in the close Republican primary between Kobach and Jeff Colyer.
Those problems did not continue in local elections this year. But there are new issues on the horizon for Kansas voters. State lawmakers approved a “vote anywhere” law that would allow open voting at any precinct. Metsker has noted technical problems with that law regarding security of the signal at smaller polling places.
In the meantime, applicants for Metsker’s job should be a county resident for at least two years and eligible to vote. The job description asks for someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration, information technology, public administration or a related field and at least three years experience in management.