What’s good for the House is good for the Senate.
About three weeks after Ottawa city commissioners Gene Ramsey and Sara Caylor testified before the Kansas House Elections Committee in opposition of House Bill 2271 — which would turn the election of city and school board positions into partisan races held in November alongside state and federal offices — city commissioner Linda Reed was in Topeka Wednesday speaking out against the measure’s counterpart Senate bills 211 and 145.
Reed testified before the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee.
“I have just completed five years on the City of Ottawa Commission and have been proud to represent our citizens and community in those years,” Reed said in her prepared remarks. “I am running for re-election even as we speak. I served one year as the mayor and have been through the election process on multiple occasions, as my husband also served 12 years on the USD 290 school board.”
Reed told committee members she was opposed to the legislation for the following reasons:
• “I do not believe that anyone will benefit by making city commission/council or school board positions partisan. These positions have historically been non-partisan so that the elected officials can serve their constituents in the most equitable and broad manner possible.”
• “I believe that moving these elections to the fall, along with the other elections, will not allow citizens to be well-informed about all of the candidates. Typically our community holds candidate forums so that our citizens can become informed about the candidates for office. By the time that all county, state and federal candidates are presented there will most likely be no audience left to listen.”
• “In addition, there will be extra confusion and lengthier ballots leading to voter dissatisfaction. Two page ballots will not work in most ballot systems currently in place in Kansas. Longer times in the voting booth will most likely occur and lead toward more voter frustration and likely lower voter turnouts.”
• “The cost incurred by a local candidate for school board or city commission will most likely become a negative influence on persons willing to run. The parties wishing to be elected will have undue influence from the various political parties and the focus of true issues of importance may be lost in the political rhetoric.”
• “I believe that the passage of this bill signals a mandate from the state in an issue that should remain under local rule. These city and school board positions are meant to work corroboratively together, and involving politics into the mix might work in some larger communities but would be detrimental to most Kansas cities and communities.”
• “I respect the efforts both to increase voter participation and to save money, both which are sorely needed, but I believe the small benefits gained would be overshadowed by the negative effects.”
The testimony of Ottawa city commissioners Caylor, Ramsey and Reed — as well as the testimony of other elected officials from cities and school boards across the state — makes clear their positions that making city and school board elections partisan and moving them to the November ballot is not in Kansans’ best interests.
Doug Carder is the senior writer for The Herald’s newsroom. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org