September 17, 2014

Charter commission passes on partisan elections

Danedri Thompson
submissions@gardnernews.com
Johnson County will continue to have non-partisan elections. Members of the county charter commission voted, 9-14, against recommending a return to partisan elections.
An audience of more than 60 residents watched as commissioners voted first to kill debate on the topic and then to maintain non-partisan elections in Johnson County.  During Monday’s meeting, commissioners were allotted no time for debate.
Brian Newby, Johnson County Election Commissioner, addressed the commission prior to the vote telling members that the proposed change would not make county elections more expensive.
However, he said partisan elections are easier to administer.
“It would be easier, but that’s just one data point,” Newby said.
Republicans in the Third District of Kansas, which includes Johnson, Wyandotte and parts of Douglas County, approved a resolution requesting that Republican members of the Charter Commission vote to approve a change to partisan elections.
Six members of the commission were appointed by Johnson County members of the Kansas House and Senate. All but one are Republicans.  The Kansas Republican Party also appointed two members to the committee.
The vote, however, was not along party lines.
Johnson County is the only county in Kansas that holds non-partisan elections for commissioners.
Voters adopted non-partisan elections in 2000 following a recommendation from members of the first Charter Commission.
In other business, charter commission members:
• voted down a proposed rules change that would’ve allowed charter members to vote at meetings in which they were not present.
• voted down a proposal that would urge the state legislature to adopt laws that would allow the board of county commissioners to override or amend policies adopted by the appointed  Johnson County Parks and Rec and Library Boards.  The proposal won a majority of the votes of the charter members at the meeting,  12-11, but it needed 13 votes – a majority of the full commission – to pass. Two commission members were absent.
The commission will next meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Johnson County Administration Building in Olathe.  Officials anticipate considering proposals that would allow voters to petition to roll back sales taxes and real estate tax increases.

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