A dangerous, heavy-handed bill in the Kansas House of Representatives would nullify the outcome of an election held in Johnson County 13 years ago.
Hearings are scheduled for today on HB 2271, which would force the Johnson County Commission to be elected in partisan elections. In 2000, voters by a 52 percent margin approved the method used now to elect commissioners — with no party labels.
Furthermore, in 2011, a citizens committee called the Charter Commission voted 14-9 to reject putting partisan elections on the ballot.
This is but a part of a bill that robs all citizens statewide, including Johnson County taxpayers, of the right to choose the method by which its governing bodies are elected.
The bill stipulates that virtually every elected office in a county shall be elected on a partisan basis. That includes school boards, community college boards, mayors and city councils, even water boards.
This is part of a two-pronged strategy. The other part would move all local elections to an August primary and November general elections. Many of those elections are now held in the spring, when turnout is particularly low.
It is understandable to move elections to dates when more voters would be involved in the selections.
However, this all adds up to a ploy to place right-wing Republicans into every facet of our local governments.
Why would this be so?
Spring elections, with turnouts as low as 9 percent, are not good breeding grounds for agenda-motivated special interest groups to rally their base.
In the August primaries, however, with larger turnouts, the far-right wing of the Republican Party galvanizes its followers to get out and vote — and they show up. They carry with them a slate of candidates who are blessed by such organizations as Kansans for Life and Americans for Prosperity (Koch brothers funded), and other special interest groups with social and fiscal agendas that are extremist and narrow in their views.
Once the ultraconservative candidates are nominated in an August primary, they almost always go on to win the general election against a Democrat.
So, August would become the pivotal time to choose all local candidates, and that is when the far right dominates the turnout.
What partisan elections in local races mean, plain and simple, is that side issues that are not relevant to the office get injected into the campaigns, and those side issues could determine the winner.
Instead of running on real issues related to local government — such as street repairs — candidates would have to pander to those with a litmus test for their particular agendas.
This devious plot to dictate to Johnson County voters just how their elections should be conducted is terrible policy.
This is also a terrible precedent.
Could the Legislature, which apparently has the right to overrule our charter elections, also choose to overrule a sales tax vote approved by county voters?
Or, could the Legislature decide that Johnson County shall elect its judges on a partisan basis?
There is no end to the mischief the Legislature could make by overriding and placing their own bias ahead of decisions made by local voters.
It is ironic that a Republican Party whose philosophically is supposed to be in favor of local control and keeping Big Brother out of local governance is intruding in ways that make us puppets of Topeka.
If there is justice, the part of this bill that dictates partisan elections will die a quick death.
And we then can continue a nonpartisan system that has worked well for us at almost every level of local government.
| Special to The Star