A House committee advanced two bills Monday that would change the way elections are conducted, despite objections from Democrats that one of the bills would impose significant costs on county governments. House Bill 2104 would provide that candidates could be removed from the ballot only if they die on or before Sept. 1. And in those cases, the party affiliated with that candidate would be required to name a replacement. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had asked for the bill, saying it was a response to controversy in the 2014 election when Democrat Chad Taylor was allowed to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race. Taylor’s withdrawal request did not explicitly state that he would be unable to fulfill the duties of that office if he were elected, as required under current law. The Kansas Supreme Court eventually upheld Taylor’s withdrawal anyway, saying it was enough that he cited the relevant statute in his request. And a three-judge district court panel later ruled that the Democratic Party could not be forced to name another candidate, despite a law saying the party “shall” name a replacement in such cases.
Kobach had said he thought both courts abused their discretion in those cases. But Democrats said that was only Kobach’s opinion, and it was no reason to change the statute.
“I think this is a bill that’s just looking for a place to land to address an individual’s disagreement with the court,” said House Democratic Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City.
Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, said the bill would require candidates to stay on the ballot even if they suffer a debilitating stroke before the election, or if they’re required to move out of the state or out of their district.