Secretary of State Kris Kobach and election officials in the state’s four large counties Tuesday opposed a bill designed to shift budget authority for elections in the counties of Shawnee, Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte in hands of county commissions. Kobach argued Kansas law permitted election officers in each of these counties — all appointed by Kobach — to unilaterally certify an annual budget to their respective county commission, which must be financed regardless of amount. Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a nonbinding opinion last August affirming Kobach’s interpretation of state law. Under Senate Bill 299, county commissions in these four jurisdictions would be given authority for election budgets and decisions on personnel policy.
During a Senate hearing, the big-four county election commissioners endorsed the status quo. Representatives of the four county governments urged reform.
Bryan Caskey, election director in Kobach’s office, said elected county commissioners could force budget changes based on partisan sentiment.
“Election commissioners, although appointed by the secretary of state’s office, are not subject to the political winds that may blow through county courthouses,” Caskey said.