Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach does not appear to have conducted any public information campaign, as required by law, to publicize the fact that the state recently shifted the election cycle for municipal elections from the spring to the fall of odd-numbered years. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew cited that as one possible explanation for why voter turnout in the county was lower than expected on Tuesday, when the first municipal elections took place in Kansas under the new cycle. “We tried to get what word out that we could,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday. “I think there was an anticipation that there would be kind of a statewide push getting information out. We’ll kind of evaluate it for us, how we increase that push locally.”
In 2015, Kansas lawmakers narrowly passed a bill moving city and school board elections to a fall cycle for odd-numbered years so they would mirror the state and federal elections held in even-numbered years, with primaries on the first Tuesday in August and general elections in early November
Supporters of that bill hoped it would increase voter turnout, which is often substantially smaller in municipal races than in state and federal elections. The idea was to get people used to the fact that there are always elections in August and November, regardless of what year it is.
Included in that new law, however, was language specifically directing the secretary of state’s office to develop a public information program “to inform the public generally of changes made as a result of moving spring elections to fall elections.”