Danedri Thompson
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There will likely be an election on Aug. 7 in part of Johnson County no matter how long it takes a trio of judges to determine statewide redistricting.
“We could be facing two elections in August,” Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby said.
Johnson County’s Charter, the county’s governing document, specifies that the primary election for county commission races is the first Tuesday in August. With redistricting for other races before federal judges that could set the stage for separate primary elections – one for the third district Johnson County Commission race and another for sheriff, state Senate and House and congressional races.
It’s a scenario Newby says the county election office isn’t wasting time worrying about right now.
“We perfectly understand the situation. It’s not good,” Newby said. “There’s so much energy you can spend trying to come up with scenarios. We’re focused as if we have an election Aug. 7, and that it’s all going to work out.”
The filing deadline for county commission candidates and sheriff was June 1. Due to redistricting, the filing deadline for other races was moved to June 11.
As it stands today, voters in the third county commission district, which includes Spring Hill, will head to the polls on Aug. 7 to narrow the field from four candidates to two.
Whether they cast ballots in other races that day is anyone’s guess.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach said if judges in the redistricting case determine political boundaries before June 8, the filing deadline for state and federal offices will be June 11 and the Aug. 7 primary will stay in place. If the decision is delayed until June 13, the filing deadline will be moved and the primary will remain on Aug. 7. If the judges reach a decision between June 14 and June 20, the filing deadline will be pushed back and the primary election will be moved to Aug. 14. For an Aug. 7 primary, military ballots are put in the mail on June 23.
Newby said his office doesn’t know enough details to begin formally considering contingency plans.
“We don’t even know when that second election would be, how much it would cost, the confusion to voters,” he said.
Newby said the ongoing uncertainty and short time frame may suppress voter participation.
“I think the turnout would be in single digits (in a county commission primary),” he said. “I think the turnout for August, whatever we have, is probably going to be low. The longer this goes on, the shorter the window is going to be going to be for candidates and voters to get acquainted. That’s a big deal.”
There are bright spots, how ver.
The ballots for county races, including commission and sheriff, are set as the deadline to file for those positions passed on June 1.
Also, Newby said it is unlikely boundary changes for Kansas’ third district congressional seat, currently held by Kevin Yoder, will affect the Johnson County Election Office. Although those boundaries will change, political analysts anticipate all of Johnson County will remain in the third district.
Dozens of maps were submitted to the Kansas Legislature and several were also submitted to the federal court for consideration, but Newby hasn’t examined a single redistricting map.
“It’s one of these things that you just have to treat that pit of worry in your stomach like your friend and figure it’s all going to work out,” Newby said. “You can go crazy trying to think through all the scenarios.”