Politics & Government

Kansas bill seeks to clarify special election to replace Pompeo

Rep. Mike Pompeo has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, and he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in a matter of days.
Rep. Mike Pompeo has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, and he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in a matter of days. File photo

A bill to fix scheduling and ballot-access problems for an upcoming election to replace Rep. Mike Pompeo is set to be considered in the Kansas House on Thursday.

House Bill 2017 would revise current state law to comply with federal deadlines for sending military absentee ballots overseas.

The bill also would allow the Libertarian Party to field a candidate in the special election and ease the signature requirement for independent candidates to get on the ballot.

Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe and chairman of the House Elections Committee, said he expects a floor vote on the bill Thursday.

The bill is being fast-tracked because Pompeo has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, and he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in a matter of days.

That will create a vacancy in the Wichita-based 4th Congressional District, which must be filled by a special election.

Under current law, the election would have to be held 45 to 60 days after the governor receives notice of the vacancy and proclaims an election. Republican and Democratic parties would have to wait 25 days before picking their nominees.

That would make it impossible to comply with federal law mandating that states send absentee ballots to military, diplomatic and other overseas voters no less than 45 days before the election.

HB 2017 would add a month to the period between the governor’s proclamation and the election.

Rather than having to wait 25 days to pick a nominee, parties would be required to pick their candidates 10 to 25 days after the proclamation.

The bill also would fix a quirk that would have essentially limited the election to a two-person race. Current law allows the Republican and Democratic party district committees to each select a candidate.

The Libertarians, the only other recognized party in Kansas, would be denied a ballot line because their last gubernatorial candidate, lawyer Keen Umbehr, didn’t get 5 percent of the vote.

HB 2017 would allow all recognized parties to nominate a candidate, whether they are considered major or minor parties.

The bill also would reduce the number of petition signatures required to run as an independent to 3,000.

Current law requires independent candidates to gather the signatures of 4 percent of the voters in the district, about 17,000.

At least two potential candidates, former congressional hopeful Miranda Allen and former governor candidate Jennifer Winn, have said they would consider running as independents. But they said it would be impossible to gather that many signatures in the short time frame allotted.

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