A fresh effort surfaced Wednesday in the House to transform election commissioners into locally elected positions instead of appointments by the Secretary of State — a change that would affect Shawnee County. Members of the House Elections Committee tacked an amendment onto a Senate bill that proponents say would make election offices in the state’s largest counties accountable to the people they serve. Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka, said he supports the change and sees it as a matter of local control. “To me, it all falls back on local control,” Alcala said. “And I think that’s where it should be.” The Topeka Capital-Journal contacted Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office seeking comment. Kobach has previously told The Capital-Journal lawmakers should leave the appointing system as it is.
Reached Wednesday afternoon by phone, Shawnee County Commission chairman Bob Archer, a Republican, signaled support. “Anytime there’s any opportunity to be more responsible and accountable to taxpayers, I’m in favor of it,” he said.
The Shawnee County Commission recently clashed with Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell, slashing his salary 15 percent after Howell’s office spent $85,000 more than the county allotted it in 2016.
“It’s kind of an odd situation now, where the state is responsible for the leadership assignment,” Archer said, “and yet the county sets the compensation level and budget.”