Next Tuesday, Kansas Citians will decide whether to make changes to the city charter. The city council has submitted voters three charter-revision ballot questions. Most city council members hope one of them will “warm up” voters attitudes on city elections.
Question 3 would move the city Mayor-Council primary election from late February to early April. And the city general election would move from late March to Early June.
The thinking is: “better weather equals better turnout.”
How much does miserable weather affect the number of voters who show up at the polls? Former city councilman John Fairfield says it can decimate voter turnout. Fairfield says in his experience, bad weather can dramatically distort the outcome of an election.
“I have worked many elections for myself and others over the years, and if you have a really bad weather day the turnout may be 8 or 10 percent,” he said.
An April primary date would also allow election costs to be shared with school districts — a big selling point for Councilman John Sharp, who describes the idea a “win-win” change.
Ed Ford has been the only council member who argued against Question 3. He is concerned that the change lengthens the election campaign season.
Currently, persons who want to run for mayor or council, have to collect several hundred petition signatures and file them 30 days before the primary. Ford says if the city makes a change, state law would move the filing deadline to 120 days before the primary.
The councilman believes that will result in fewer candidate.
“Not everyone decides a year out that they want to run for city council. A lot of times people run for city council or state rep or some other office because of something that's passed that they don't like,” said Ford.
The other council members say voter turnout is more important than accessibility to last-minute candidates.
The other two charter revision measures on the April ballot:
Question 4 consists of administrative modifications including a wording change to clarify that most ordinances that are “recognized emergencies” are not really emergencies but simply “expedited ordinances” that need to be on a fast finalization track.
Finance chair Jan Marcason thinks the most important part of Question 4 is that it would set a November 1 deadline for preparing the city's annual five-year financial plan.
Question 5 involves another administrative issue. It would allow the city manager more flexibility in organizing and naming city departments. It specifically protects some essential ones, including the fire and health departments.