Your judge retention election and JoCo liquor law ballot question primer

Advance in-person voting began in Johnson County on Saturday, Oct. 17, with crowds and long lines in some locations. The county is also accepting mail-in ballots, which can be sent back through the mail or dropped off at eight secure drop boxes spread out across the county.

Johnson County election officials say tens of thousands of voters cast ballots — both in-person and through mail-in ballots — in the first days of early voting. They encourage those who can to vote as early as possible to lessen the chance of large crowds at polling sits on Election Day, Nov. 3. The county’s interim election commissioner has said they are preparing for 90% turnout for the 2020 general election.

There are several high-profile races on this year’s ballot, including ones for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, the first contested race for Johnson County District Attorney in 12 years, plus many competitive races for Kansas House and Senate. But there are also some items that have not received as much attention.

This primer tackles items Johnson County voters will see lower down on their ballots: 13 judge retention elections, and a ballot question regarding a long-standing liquor law in Johnson County.


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Judge Retention Questions

Judges in Kansas are appointed through a nonpartisan merit selection process, instead of through partisan elections, but voters must still approve whether to retain judges by answering either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ for each individual judge. The judges cannot actively campaign for retention, so the Johnson County Bar Association tries to help voters by releasing voluntary surveys of their member-lawyers, evaluating each judge on the ballot.

The results indicate the level of support from local attorneys for these judges’ retention. There are 13 judges on the ballot in 2020, including one on the Kansas Supreme Court, five on the Kansas Court of Appeals and and seven serving at the Johnson County District Court.

Here is a quick view of the results of the JoCo Bar Associations survey of lawyers:


Liquor Law Ballot Question

A vestige of Kansas’ old dry law that limits the sale of alcoholic drinks is up for possible elimination in Johnson County in 2020.

The referendum question appears at or near the bottom of the ballot: “Shall the sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink in Johnson County be allowed in public places without a requirement that any portion of their gross receipts be from sales of food?”

A majority of “yes” votes on that question would remove the so-called “30% rule” that small breweries and craft beer makers says inhibits their growth and puts Johnson County brewers at a disadvantage to their neighbors in the rest of the metro area.

The “30% rule” requires that an establishment selling individual drinks of alcohol make at least 30% of its gross sales in food. The requirement is a holdover from the 1880s, when Kansas had a constitutional ban on alcohol. A majority of county commissioners agreed when they put the question on the ballot last spring that the “30% rule” is outdated and eliminating it could spur economic development and there is little organized opposition to getting rid of the requirement.

In the meantime, small taps serving craft beer have become increasingly popular in Johnson County. Microbreweries have sprung up in many cities and there’s a thriving online community of hobby brewers, as well. The owners of these small breweries have campaigned to get the county to change the “30% rule.” They say selling food requires a level of expertise and imposes expenses that make it difficult to do business in the county.