Tagkansas

Stories about Kansas

Kansas District Court judge overturns that state’s new congressional district boundaries

Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper struck down Kansas’ enacted congressional map on April 25 for violating the state constitution due to political and racial gerrymandering. Klapper’s ruling stated, “The Court has no difficulty finding, as a factual matter, that Ad Astra 2 is an intentional, effective pro-Republican gerrymander that systemically dilutes the votes of Democratic Kansans.” Klapper’s ruling also said that the state’s new district boundaries “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”

Klapper issued his decision in a case resulting from the consolidation of three lawsuits challenging Kansas’ congressional map from 20 Kansas voters and the organization Loud Light, which describes itself on its website as a group that “engages, educates, and empowers individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power that has an impact on decision makers.” Klapper heard oral arguments on the consolidated cases earlier this month.

The court’s ruling blocks Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R) and local election officials from using the previously enacted maps for the state’s upcoming elections and directs the legislature to “enact a remedial plan in conformity with this opinion as expeditiously as possible.” Andrew Bahl of the Topeka Capitol Journal wrote that Republican legislative leaders said they would ask Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) to appeal Klapper’s ruling to the state supreme court.

The state Senate and state House enacted the overturned boundaries Feb. 9 when the chambers overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto. In both chambers, all votes to override the governor’s veto were from Republicans and all legislative Democrats that cast votes were to sustain Kelly’s veto. The state Senate originally approved the congressional district map proposal on Jan. 21 and the state House of Representatives approved it on Jan. 26. Kelly vetoed the congressional map on Feb. 3.

After the state legislature overrode Kelly’s veto, Bahl wrote that the “maps were hotly contested, largely for the decision to split Wyandotte County and put part of the Kansas City, Kan., area in the 2nd Congressional District, a move that endangers the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, and, Democrats argue, unfairly divides minority communities.”

Klapper was originally appointed to a judgeship on the 29th Judicial District court in Wyandotte County by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2013. He was elected without opposition in both the Democratic primary and general elections in both 2014 and 2018.

Kansas’ candidate filing deadline is June 1, and statewide, congressional, and local primaries are scheduled for Aug. 2.

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Kansas Department of Labor announces unemployment insurance modernization contract

The Kansas Department of Labor (KDL) announced on April 5 that the state chose Tata Consultancy Services to update the current IT system for processing unemployment insurance claims. The KDL said the project would take multiple years to complete, but the state had not released a timeline or budget as of April 5.

Kansas launched its existing unemployment insurance IT system in the 1970s.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

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Kansas voters to decide whether to add sheriff elections to the state constitution

On April 1, the Kansas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would require the election of county sheriffs in counties that had not abolished the office as of January 2022 and would provide that sheriffs may be recalled from office or removed by a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.

Currently, state law provides for the election of a county sheriff for four years, except where counties have adopted, through a ballot measure, a consolidated county law enforcement agency that “assumes control of the principal law enforcement duties presently held by the county and the cities therein.” The law enforcement agency would not have a sheriff. This law was adopted in 1974 and was implemented by Riley County, the only county out of the state’s 105 that does not have a sheriff.

Under current state law, voters can recall a sheriff by submitting a petition containing valid signatures equal to at least 40% of the voters who voted in the last sheriff election.

State Rep. Eric Smith (R) said, “I just want you to consider the idea that when you have an elected sheriff out there, that individual serves you and serves your constituents as an individual who has to uphold those values that they were elected on, and you can hold them accountable for that.”

Smith’s Republican colleague, Rep. Michael Dodson, argued in opposition to the amendment saying, “If a county wishes to have a sheriff, that’s a great choice. Likewise, if a county wishes to consolidate, they should be able to do that.”

To put the legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote was required in both the Kansas State Senate and the Kansas House of Representatives, which amounted to 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate. 

This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 5022 (HCR 5022) on January 13, 2022. On February 23, the state House passed HCR 5022 in a vote of 97-24, with four absent and not voting. The Senate passed the resolution with amendments on March 23, 2022, by a vote of 36-2. The House voted not to concur with the amendments and requested a conference committee. The Senate voted to rescind its amendments to the resolution in a vote of 39-1 on April 1, 2022.

In August, Kansas voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment to state that there is no right to an abortion or public funding for abortion. In November, voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment to allow the state legislature to pass laws to revoke or suspend executive agency rules and regulations. 

From 1995 through 2020, the state legislature referred ten constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved eight and rejected two of the referred amendments.



Kansas voters to decide November ballot measure on the legislature’s power to revoke or suspend executive agency regulations

The Kansas Senate approved a constitutional amendment on March 23 that would allow the legislature to pass laws, which the governor could not veto, to revoke or suspend executive agencies’ rules and regulations. The state House passed the amendment on Feb. 21. With approval in the House and Senate, voters will decide the proposal at the general election on Nov. 8, 2022.

Currently, the legislature can pass laws to revoke or suspend executive agencies’ rules and regulations. However, the governor can veto these bills. Legislators can override vetos with two-thirds majorities in each legislative chamber.

Legislative Democrats and Republicans were divided on the constitutional amendment. Most Democrats (47 of 50) voted against sending the proposal to the ballot. Most Republicans (110 of 115) voted to put the question before voters. State Sen. Kellie Warren (R-11) said, “This constitutional amendment restores the checks and balances to the Legislature. That’s where the policy-making belongs.”

State Rep. John Carmichael (D-92) said, “We need to have balance in our government so that there is a give-and-take, no matter if there’s a Republican governor or a Democratic governor. This constitutional amendment turns that balance on its head.”

In Kansas, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. In the House, 84 votes were required, and the amendment received 85. In the Senate, 27 votes were required, and that threshold was met with 27 votes.

Constitutional amendments concerning the legislature’s power over administrative regulations have been more common in 2021 and 2022 than during the prior five years. In November, West Virginians will vote on a constitutional amendment on the legislature’s power over the State Board of Education’s rules and policies. In 2021, Pennsylvania voters approved a pair of constitutional amendments regarding the legislature’s ability to extend or terminate emergency declarations.

The Kansas constitutional amendment is one of two that voters will decide in the state this year. Kansans will vote on August 2 on a constitutional amendment to declare that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion.

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Kansas adopts new congressional map after legislature overrides gubernatorial veto

Kansas enacted new congressional district boundaries on Feb. 9 when both chambers of the state legislature overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of a redistricting plan the legislature passed. Kansas was apportioned four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census. This map will take effect for Kansas’ 2022 congressional elections.

The Kansas House of Representatives overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37 with all votes in favor by Republicans, and 36 Democrats and one Republican voting to sustain the veto. The Senate overrode Kelly’s veto 27-11 on Feb. 8 along party lines. Kelly had vetoed the congressional map on Feb. 3. The state Senate originally approved the congressional district map proposal on Jan. 21 and the state House of Representatives approved it on Jan. 26.

Andrew Bahl of the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote that the “maps were hotly contested, largely for the decision to split Wyandotte County and put part of the Kansas City, Kan., area in the 2nd Congressional District, a move that endangers the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, and, Democrats argue, unfairly divides minority communities.”

As of Feb. 9, 31 states have adopted congressional district maps, and one state has approved congressional district boundaries that have not yet taken effect. Federal or state courts have blocked previously adopted maps in two states, and 10 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting is required. As of Feb. 9 in 2012, 36 states had enacted congressional redistricting plans.

States have completed congressional redistricting for 315 of the 435 seats (72.4%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Kansas county commissioner recall election approved by voters

A recall election against Brian Kinzie (R), District Two representative on the Labette County Commission in Kansas, was held on Dec. 7. A majority of voters cast ballots in favor of the recall, removing Kinzie from office.

Voters were asked, “Shall Brian C. Kinzie be recalled from the office of 2nd District County Commissioner?” They had the option to vote yes or no. A total of 58.9% voted yes, according to unofficial election night results.

The recall effort started after Kinzie voted in April 2021 in favor of a motion to enter into final negotiations to allow a wind energy company to place 50 to 70 wind turbines in the county. The motion passed with a vote of 2-1. Recall supporters said they were concerned that Kinzie or his family stood to financially benefit from the deal. Kinzie said, “I’ve given this community 45 years of my life and I’ll continue to do so until there’s no fight left.”

Before recall petitions can be circulated in Kansas, a district attorney or county attorney must certify that it meets specific legal grounds. The petition against Kinzie was allowed to circulate due to misconduct. The Office of the Attorney General of Kansas found that Kinzie and fellow commissioner Cole Proehl violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act when they discussed county business on a phone call outside of a public commission meeting. The attorney general’s office did not file formal charges against Kinzie and Proehl. Instead, they were required to take a refresher course on public meeting compliance.

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters had to collect 1,202 signatures in 90 days. They submitted 1,582 signatures on Aug. 30. The county verified enough signatures on Sept. 24 to put the recall on the ballot. Kinzie filed a challenge to the sufficiency declaration in Labette County District Court. A senior judge denied his requests to stop the recall process.

Kinzie was serving his fourth term on the three-member commission.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 165 recall efforts against 263 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Kansas school board recall election defeated

A recall election seeking to remove Amy Sudbeck from her position as the District 1 representative on the Nemaha USD 115 Board of Education in Kansas was on the ballot on Nov. 2. The majority of votes were cast against the recall, keeping Sudbeck in office.

The recall effort started after a majority of board members voted in April and May to keep the district’s policy to require mask-wearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than changing the policy to say masks were recommended. The recall petition said Sudbeck failed to perform her duties and “violated Kansas Statute 60-5305 by not allowing parents to make decisions regarding the healthcare of their children when attending school.”

In response to the recall, Sudbeck said, “It’s unfortunate that this issue has caused division in our community. I voted with the majority to allow our kids freedom to participate in activities, stay in school and keep them out of a quarantine invoked by the health department.”

Three signatures were required to get the recall on the ballot, and the clerk verified eight signatures.

Sudbeck was appointed to her position on the seven-member board in 2020, and she sought re-election in 2021. She advanced from the primary on Aug. 3 and was on the regular election ballot in addition to the recall election ballot on Nov. 2. She won re-election.

Ballotpedia has tracked 84 school board recall efforts against 215 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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School board recall elections in Kansas and Wisconsin on ballot Nov. 2

One Kansas school board member and four Wisconsin school board members are facing recall elections on Nov. 2. Supporters of both efforts listed the school board’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the reasons for recall.

In the Nemaha USD 115 in Kansas, District 1 representative Amy Sudbeck is facing a yes/no recall question. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of the recall, Sudbeck will be removed from office. If a majority of voters cast ballots against the recall, Sudbeck will retain her office.

The recall petition said that Sudbeck had failed to perform her duties and alleged that she had violated state statutes by voting to require masks in schools rather than allowing them to be optional. In response to the recall, Sudbeck said, “It’s unfortunate that this issue has caused division in our community. I voted with the majority to allow our kids freedom to participate in activities, stay in school and keep them out of a quarantine invoked by the health department.”

Sudbeck was appointed to her position on the seven-member board in 2020. She is seeking re-election in 2021. She advanced from the primary on Aug. 3 and will be on the regular election ballot in addition to the recall election ballot on Nov. 2.

Three signatures were required to get the recall on the ballot. The Nemaha County Clerk verified eight signatures, allowing the recall election to be scheduled.

In the Mequon-Thiensville School District in Wisconsin, four board members—Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan, and Chris Schultz—are on the ballot. Cheryle Rebholtz filed to run against Francour, Charles Lorenz filed to run against Hollander, Kristopher Kittell filed to run against Khan, and Scarlett Johnson filed to run against Schultz. The candidate who receives the most votes in each recall election will win that seat.

Recall supporters said they started the recall due to concerns about the school district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, critical race theory, a decline in academic performance metrics, and an inability to get answers from board members. The other three members of the board were not eligible for recall as they had not served in the office for at least one year.

In response to the recall efforts, a spokeswoman for the district said, “MTSD’s focus remains on advancing our vision and planning for a robust learning experience for all students for the 2021-2022 school year.”

All four members named filed challenges against the recall petitions. The challenges were sustained when it came to duplicate signatures but were not sustained on other matters. To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect approximately 4,200 signatures per board member in 60 days.

Ballotpedia has tracked 82 school board recall efforts against 212 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Heather Meyer assumes office as Kansas state representative

Heather Meyer (D) assumed office as the representative for District 29 in the Kansas state House on Sept. 7. The Johnson County Democratic Party appointed Meyer to the district on Aug. 24. The district became vacant on Aug. 29 when former state Rep. Brett Parker (D) resigned to accept a job offer. Meyer will serve the remainder of Parker’s term, which was set to expire in January 2023.

At the time she was appointed, Meyer practiced as a social worker in the Kansas City area.

Meyer ran for the District 29 seat in 2014. She was defeated in the general election by incumbent James Todd (R), 54.3% to 45.7%. According to the Shawnee Mission Post, Meyer said she plans to run for a full term in 2022.

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Nov. 2 candidates for Topeka mayor and city council determined in Aug. 3 primary

The primary for the Topeka mayor and District 3 council seat in Kansas was held on Aug. 3. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for Nov. 2. The filing deadline to run passed on June 1.

Five candidates competed in the mayoral race. Mike Padilla and Leo Cangiani both advanced to the general election. Padilla received 3,990 votes, and Cangiani received 1,803. Daniel Brown, John Lauer, and Patrick Klick received less than 1,000 votes each and will not move on to the general election. The current mayor of Topeka, Michelle De La Isla, announced she would not be running for another term in March 2021. 

Sylvia Ortiz and Regina Platt advanced from the primary for the District 3 council seat, defeating William Hendrix, David Johnson, and Lana Kombacher. The primaries for Districts 1, 5, 7, and 9 on the city council were canceled, but they will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

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