Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says one of the main questions she gets is what her department does between elections. “I kind of laugh and say, ‘When are we between elections?’ ” she said. Sedgwick County was supposed to have a longer break before its next countywide election. Then President-elect Trump nominated 4th District Congressman Mike Pompeo to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. “We were supposed to be ‘between elections’ right now,” Lehman said at a county commission meeting this month. “We no longer are.” If Pompeo is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, his replacement will be chosen by the voters of the 4th District, which includes Sedgwick County and most of south-central Kansas. Officials will need to work quickly to set up polling locations and get workers for the polls. And if the county’s new voting machines aren’t ready in time, most voters will cast paper ballots.
It’s still unknown when that special election would take place. That depends on the timing of Pompeo’s Senate confirmation and subsequent resignation. But Lehman says it’s clear “that timeline is very challenging.” “We don’t know when it will occur,” she said. “We will have to move very, very quickly when it does.”
Once a vacancy occurs, the governor has five days to call for a special election that would take place between 45 and 60 days later. The political parties can’t nominate someone for the race until 25 days after the election is called by the governor.
Even if the full 60-day window is granted by the governor, there would be only 35 days for Lehman’s office to know the names on the ballot for the election. Yet Lehman said her office is required by state and federal law to mail out military or overseas ballots 45 days before the election.