Here are answers to questions you may have about Tuesday’s special election in Wichita about an incentive for the Ambassador Hotel downtown. The election is the third in Kansas under the state’s new voter ID law.
Q. Who may vote?
A. Only registered voters who live within Wichita’s city limits.
Q. Why are we having this special election?
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A. In September, the Wichita City Council voted to change an ordinance so the city could give the developers of the $22.5 million Ambassador Hotel, at Douglas and Broadway, 75 percent of the guest tax for 15 years. That subsidy was forced to a city election by a petition drive led by Americans for Prosperity, a free-enterprise group.
Q. How much will the election cost and who’s paying for it?
A. The estimated $50,000 cost will be paid by the developers.
Q. What is the question on the ballot?
A. Here is what you’ll see on the ballot:
Shall charter ordinance 216 entitled: “A charter ordinance
amending and repealing section 1 of charter ordinance No. 213, of
the city of Wichita, Kansas, which amended and repealed section 1
of charter ordinance No. 183 of the city of Wichita which amended
and repealed section 1 of charter ordinance No. 174 of the city of Wichita, Kansas pertaining to the application of revenues from the transient guest tax” take effect?
Q. What is the question asking?
A. It’s asking whether a voter wants the city to rebate to the developers of the Ambassador Hotel 75 percent of the bed tax paid by the hotel’s guests for 15 years. The total amount is estimated at $2.25 million. A “yes” vote means you do, a “no” vote means you don’t.
Q. Who wrote the question?
A. City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf.
Q. Why is the wording so confusing?
A. Rebenstorf is required to follow specific legal guidelines set by Article 12 of the Kansas Constitution when a charter ordinance question is on a ballot. Article 12’s requirement is pretty short and simple. It says the question shall begin with the wording “Shall charter ordinance No. ____ entitled (title of the ordinance) take effect?” It’s the wording that’s required for the title of the ordinance that can make it sound confusing.
Rebenstorf was required to put the exact title of ordinance No. 216 in the question. The title became more complex because it includes three references to amendments and repeals. Article 12 also requires those changes be listed in the charter ordinance’s new title, Rebenstorf said.
Q. Can’t some clarification be added to the question?
A. The only words added that might give a voter a hint of what the question is about is at the tail end: “pertaining to the application of revenues from the transient guest tax.”
Rebenstorf said he doesn’t think he can legally add any more clarification because Article 12 doesn’t say he can. He said clarification has been offered to the public at the city’s website, www.wichita.gov.
“From the strict legal standpoint, what we were trying to do was make sure we were following the constitution,” he said. “I want to make sure I follow it to the ‘T.’”
He also said explanatory wording could do more harm than good.
“You have to be careful,” Rebenstorf said. “You could spend a whole lot of conversation trying to explain it, and it still might not help answer the question. You don’t want to be perceived as taking sides one way or other in fashioning some explanation.”
Other ballots asking questions about charter ordinance changes in Wichita and around the state have followed the same interpretation that Rebenstorf has in writing Tuesday’s question.
Q. Are all the normal polling places open in Wichita?
A. Four won’t be open: First Baptist Church, Eastminister Presbyterian Church, Christ the King Church and Independent Living Resource Center of Kansas. First Baptist will not be used as a polling site because of a conflict with parking space. The other three won’t be used Tuesday because of a scheduling conflict.
The election office has notified those voters by mail of their polling site for Tuesday, Lehman said.
All those who normally vote at Eastminster will vote Tuesday at Central Christian Church, 2900 N. Rock Road. Christ the King voters will go to Westwood Presbyterian, 8007 W. Maple. Independent Living and First Baptist voters will be split between several locations.
Voters can find their polling location by going to www.voteks.org and plugging in their address.
Q. What else can I expect when I vote?
A. You will be asked for your photo ID. There are eight accepted forms of photo ID, including a driver’s license and a nondrivers ID. The others: a concealed carry license, a U.S. passport, a public employee ID badge, a military ID, a student ID from a Kansas college, a public assistance ID.
Q. What if I forget my photo ID?
A. You may cast a provisional ballot. You will then have until 10 a.m. Monday, March 5, when canvassing of the ballots is conducted, to take a photo ID to the Sedgwick County Election Office, on the first floor of the historic courthouse, 510 N. Main, Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said.
Q. Anything else new at the polls?
A. Think electronic. Everything will be electronic. Your driver’s license or nondrivers ID will be scanned, Lehman said. Forget the poll book you used to sign. You will sign on a digital pad, similar to the one you sign when making a credit or debit card purchase at a store. “It’s about speeding up the process,” Lehman said.
Q. When are advance ballots due for this election?
A. They must be in the election office by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Q. Can I still vote in advance in person?
A. You can vote from 8 a.m. to noon Monday at the Sedgwick County Election Office, Suite 101 at the historic courthouse, 510 N. Main.
Q. What hours are the polls open?
A. They open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.