Monday, May 12, 2014

Let's Play Two!

We're sitting on the eve of our first day-night doubleheader in Johnson County elections.

At noon, a special mail-ballot election in Fairway will close and we hope to have results out by early afternoon.

Meanwhile, polls (or a poll) open(s) at 7 a.m. in Roeland Park for a special election to select a council member for a vacated seat.

That election closes at 7 p.m.  Some in our office will come early, some will stay late, and a few of us will be there wire-to-wire.

Roeland Park is the only jurisdiction in Johnson County that fills vacated seats by election.  The rest of the cities appoint replacements, either for the remainder of the term or until the next city election.

Personally, I'm a "will of the people" kind of guy.  I think it's cool that the citizens pick their representatives.

It is, though, the fourth election of this type that Roeland Park has had in my nine years here and sixth since 2000.  Roeland Park also had a special mail-ballot election earlier this year.

A fair conclusion you may be drawing, or at least posing as a question, is why couldn't the Roeland Park elections be mail-ballots?

Simply, in Kansas, mail-ballot elections are for issues, not people.

That inefficiency is illuminated a bit with the statutory requirement that we have advance voting for every polls election of at least one week.

I've only been following the number anecdotally--for reals tomorrow--but I think we had 7 in-person advance voters over that week.

Such turnout numbers are factors for looking, again, at the potential for mail-ballot elections in Kansas.  The Kansas clerks association has created a task force--and named me co-chair (that's what I get for being out of the room).

I'm not an advocate of all-mail elections.  Mostly, I have just heard enough opinions from a cross-section of our voters to know that many (at least 7 in Roeland Park, for instance) prefer to vote in-person.

I do think it's worth looking at all-mail elections as an option for counties or jurisdictions in special elections.  For small elections, mail-ballot elections end up less costly (still about $4 per registered voter, though).

But, in the world of costly elections or, in this case, NOT COSTLY elections--I bring you the city of Shawnee:

See, the city was on the even-year election cycle, where elections were not countywide.  This meant that the city paid for elections that otherwise would be free if held in odd years.

I saw this expense immediately upon coming to the election office from Shawnee's city council and began telling anyone who cared about these unnecessary expenditures.

The city changed the cycle and, in 2013, held its first odd-year city election under the new cycle.  So, as 2014's spring invoices are being prepared, nothing for Shawnee!

Let's see:
2012 Shawnee Primary and General Election Expense:  $112,729.30
2014 Shawnee Primary and General Election Expense:  $0

To quote an obnoxious car dealer here in Olathe, "That's real money, folks."

And, Shawnee was one of five cities in the spring of even years when I came and the only one of the five to move to the odd years so far.  Maybe this real-life savings will inspire the others to hop to the land of the free (elections).

So, let's hear it for the home team!  (At least, that's MY home team).

As for tomorrow, I'm not sure who the home team is in the doubleheader, but, here's hoping the turnout in Roeland Park's election represents plenty of......wait for it......Visitors.