A Republican committee chairman formally submitted a bill Friday to the full House stripping Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach of power to pick the top election officer in the state’s four most populous counties after Democrats complained the legislation had inexplicably disappeared. Rep. Keith Esau, chairman of the House Elections Committee, said bill-drafting issues, instead of his personal opposition to the measure, delayed presentation of the measure to the House in accordance with a rule requiring delivery within two legislative work days. More than a week elapsed between the committee’s approval of Senate Bill 8 and the chairman’s compliance with the rule.
Esau’s committee passed the bill March 15 containing an amendment withdrawing Kobach’s control of election officer appointments in Shawnee, Johnson, Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties. Starting in 2020, if the bill became law, these county election executives would be chosen by popular vote.
Esau said he joined with Kobach in opposing the reform, which gained traction, in part, due to a budget conflict between the Shawnee County Commission and Shawnee County Election Officer Andrew Howell. Kobach appointed Howell in 2012, and Esau defended Howell during a recent county commission meeting leading to action slashing Howell’s annual salary by approximately 15 percent.