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So far, advance voting applications disappointing for Nov. 7 election

Voter registration deadline is Tuesday

More candidate forums to be held this week

by Mary Rupert

So far, advance voting applications have been disappointing for the Nov. 7 general election, according to Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Bruce Newby.

The election office sent out information about mail-in ballots and had a good response shortly after it went out, but that has tapered off, he said.

Registered voters may choose whether to vote in person Nov. 7 on Election Day, or in advance at the election office and two satellite locations, or by advance mail-in ballots.

There are about 3,974 applications received from voters now for mail-in ballots here, he said. That includes about 1,200 permanent advance voters who automatically get a ballot and others who contact the election office for one.

The Nov. 7 election will include candidates for mayor, Unified Government Commission, sheriff, Board of Public Utilities, Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees, local school boards, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. The UG mayor’s contest, between incumbent Mayor Mark Holland and challenger David Alvey, has attracted the most attention so far.

Advance voting in person will start on Oct. 28 at the election office at 850 State Ave., Eisenhower Recreation Center, 2901 N. 72nd St., and Argentine Community Center, 2810 Metropolitan Ave.

Newby said he expected more people to sign up for mail-in ballots, but he is “waiting for the enthusiasm to catch on.”

“In a low turnout election, it’s anybody’s game,” Newby said. He has seen some low turnout elections where incumbents did well, and others where challengers won, he said.

There isn’t a specific reason why the numbers are low for mail-in ballots, but he said traditionally the municipal and school board elections have had low turnout. Sometimes voters don’t know who is running for office, he said, and candidates need to do a better job of educating them. He hopes enthusiasm will pick up closer to the election.

Newby said he was pleasantly surprised during the primary election this year, when more people voted than he expected, based on past statistics. If the general election follows the same path, there could be a good turnout, he added.

Previously, municipal elections were held in the spring, with the primary in February. There is more of a chance of good weather now than in February and March, which is one of the reasons the Legislature moved the date of city elections to the fall, he said.

Voter registration deadline is Tuesday

Voter registration deadline for this election is Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the end of the day. Newby said those who walk in to register to vote at the election office at 850 State Ave. will have until 5 p.m. Oct. 17 to register.

Those who are registering online and at the libraries may see different closing hours, he added. Online registration may continue until midnight Tuesday.

More candidate forums to be held this week

Voters will have another chance to meet the candidates at public forums to be held this week.

The forums include:

• Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 6 to 9 p.m., Upper Jewell building, Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Ave. Candidates are invited for mayor, sheriff, Unified Government Commission and Board of Public Utilities. The forum is sponsored by Business West, neighborhood and business organizations with KCKCC.

• Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m., Upper Jewell building, Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Ave. Candidates are invited for KCKCC Board of Trustees and Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education. The forum is sponsored by Business West, neighborhood and business organizations with KCKCC.

• Friday, Oct. 20, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Blessed Sacrament Family Center gym, 2215 Parallel Ave. Candidates were invited for mayor, sheriff, UG Commission, District 1, BPU at large District 1, and Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education. The forum is sponsored by Unity with Purpose and Forum Partners, including the NAACP.

Advance voting schedule

Advance voting in person is taking place at the Election Office, 850 State Ave., open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4; closed on Sunday, Oct. 29; open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 30 to Nov. 3; closed Sunday, Nov. 5; and open from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Nov. 6.

The satellite voting centers at Eisenhower Recreation and Argentine Community centers will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28; closed Sunday, Oct. 29; open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 30 through Nov. 3; open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4; and closed Sunday, Nov. 5.

For more information on satellite voting, see http://wycovotes.org/where-do-i-vote/.

A list of candidates appearing on the ballot is at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56606b47e4b0b9403ad6ff96/t/59ba86e9d7bdcee112c01f1d/1505396457468/Candidate+on+the+General+Election+Ballot+110717.pdf

More information about the election is at the Wyandotte County Election Office website, http://www.wycovotes.org/, or voters may call 913-573-8500.

At that website, there also is a link to check to see if voters are registered.

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Accident reported on southbound I-435 near Holliday Drive

An accident was reported about 12:24 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, on southbound I-435 near Holliday Drive, according to KC Scout. Two right lanes were closed. (KC Scout photo)

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Top Democrats want Kansas legislators to start school funding work before session

by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Kansas News Service

The top Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are calling on Senate President Susan Wagle not to wait until January to start work on fulfilling a Kansas Supreme Court order to fix funding for public schools.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, and his counterpart in the House, Jim Ward of Wichita, wrote a letter to Wagle, who heads the Legislative Coordinating Council, seeking an interim bipartisan panel of House and Senate members.

“We were admonished by at least three of the Supreme Court justices that we’re dragging our feet,” Hensley said, adding that an expedited schedule would suit the importance of the task and signal to the court that lawmakers aren’t leaving the matter to the last minute.

Wagle said Friday she is reviewing the request to determine whether it would be “efficient and productive.”

“Given the dim view the Kansas Supreme Court has taken with regard to the school finance work previously performed by legislative staff,” she wrote to Ward and Hensley, “we must carefully reflect on whether any meaningful work product can come from such a quickly convened interim committee that the Court would deem credible.”

Ward dismissed that characterization, saying a well-composed panel could help ensure lawmakers can “get to work on day one” upon returning to Topeka in January.

“It’s not just having an interim discussion — it’s making sure you have a broad base of the Legislature represented on that committee,” Ward said.

The committee he and Hensley want would meet for four days and receive briefings on the state Supreme Court’s Oct. 2 88-page ruling, in which the justices found the state’s school finance formula unconstitutional. It also would seek testimony from educators and others about how to respond, and draw up recommendations for the House and Senate to consider in January.

Crafting a fix

Asked whether Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer are supportive of an interim committee, Brownback spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said such a panel is a matter for the Legislature to decide.

“The governor has said repeatedly that the court should not substitute its decision-making for decisions made in good faith by the elected representatives of the people of Kansas,” Whitten added.

Democrats aren’t alone in wanting to jump-start the process of tackling school finance.

“We need to come back in January with a plan or a number of options,” said Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Fairway Republican. “I don’t see us having the luxury of waiting three months to start engaging.”

To that end, Rooker said she had spoken with legislative leaders and Colyer, conveying her interest in participating in any interim efforts.

“That said, I’m certainly not waiting to hear what gets decided,” she said. “I’m doing what I have always done, which is to sit down and work out the to-do list and getting going with my own efforts.”

The court set an April 30 deadline for the state to file a brief explaining what action it has taken to remedy school finance since Oct. 2. That means lawmakers will need to craft a fix before then, with enough time left for the Attorney General’s Office to compose the brief.
Oral arguments are scheduled for May 22.

Lawmakers need to address four specifics of money distribution and spending rules that the court found unfair to poorer school districts.

“I don’t see that as a complicated process,” Rooker said, “to come up with the alternatives that we need to resolve those concerns.”

How much money is needed?

But the thorniest question will be overall spending levels. The justices concluded that funding for public schools falls short of the state’s constitutional obligation to provide education, but they didn’t specify how much is needed. Lawmakers agreed this spring to phase in a nearly $300 million increase over two years. After that, they agreed to adjust annual funding levels in line with inflation.

Hensley suggested Kansas could have dodged one of the court’s concerns about fairness — that lawmakers handed an extra $2 million to the Blue Valley and De Soto school districts without clear reasoning — by increasing aid to other districts as well.

For example, adding around $100 per student statewide to Kansas’ base funding formula, he said, would have achieved the same increase for Blue Valley while ensuring other districts are treated similarly.

The Legislative Budget Committee — a joint panel that monitors budget matters outside of session — received briefings from legislative staff last week on the Gannon ruling and current education appropriations.

Steven Johnson, an Assaria Republican on that committee who also is chairman of the House tax committee, said Kansans should “very definitely” let their lawmakers know how they want the Legislature to respond to the court.

The options, depending on how much money is needed, he said, are to find the money within the state’s available revenue, raise taxes or defy the court.

Considering the difficulty with which the Legislature passed a tax hike this year, Johnson expressed doubt that lawmakers have much interest in treading that path again.

“And it depends, will the governor at that time also suggest a tax increase is not necessary?” he asked. “If so, a veto-proof majority I don’t see as possible.”

Senate leaders issued a statement the day of the court ruling saying tax hikes aren’t an option and that the justices’ decision “puts the rest of state government and programs in jeopardy.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

See more at http://kcur.org/post/top-democrats-want-kansas-legislators-start-school-funding-work-session.

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