Pottawatomie County residents will consider expanding the commission this November after a successful grassroots petition effort was waged by a member of the Planning Commission.

It’s the second ballot question for voters to decide on Nov. 8. Earlier this month, the commission unanimously approved a resolution asking voters to consider a quarter percent sales tax to be levied to help fund county road and bridge projects.

According to County Clerk Dawn Henry, a total 1,011 valid signatures were confirmed, which was more than the 892 necessary. Voters will be asked whether the governing body should be increased from its current three seat commission to five seats. Doug Kern, who started the petition, stated in an interview to KMAN back in February what motivated him to petition the county.

“There’s three county commissioners in Pottawatomie County and everything they do has to be done in open session. They can’t talk to each other on the phone, without fear of violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act,” he said.

Expansion could mean broader representation for citizens from more rural areas and small towns. It also creates the issue of a super-majority, which under a three-member commission requires a unanimous vote for some matters. With five members, a super-majority is four. Protest petitions, as an example, by state statute, require a 75 percent approval from an oversight board. A supermajority is required if the board wants to directly override the county Planning Commission recommendation.

The most recent Kansas county to vote on expansion was Reno County in 2021. Since the measure was approved last fall, the commission has voted to reduce commission salaries in order to stay budget neutral. Boundaries were also redrawn to ensure adequate representation throughout the county.

If voters approve, the board will adopt a resolution outlining the new districts. If the board does not act, it will be up to Chief Judge Jeff Elder to order the division of districts, according to state statute. After that, the governor would have five days from the resolution’s adoption and with advice from the board to declare an election for new districts to be voted upon at the next general election date of call a special election to be held 75 to 90 days from the date of the board resolution.

In either scenario, the two additional elected officials would serve until Jan. 10, 2025. A full timeline, provided by the County Clerk’s Office, is available below.

If a special election is called:

  • Chairs of each recognized political party calls a convention not less than 15 days or more than 25 days from Governors declaration where a candidate will be chosen K.S.A. 19-203a(b)
  • Independent candidates can submit petition of not less than 5% of qualified electors in the new district no more than 25 days from the declaration. K.S.A. 19-203(c)
  • Candidates must reside in the new district and only voters in the new district will vote in the special election.
  • The winners will only serve until the next general election where the successors will be chosen K.S.A. 19-203(9)
  • Terms of office must be staggered so no more than a majority are elected in one election. K.S.A. 19-202(c)
  • New districts (District 4 and 5) will be elected in same cycle as District 1
  • If special election results in new districts being elected in the next general election with the 2 existing districts, the newly elected commissioners will only serve two years and run again with in correct cycle.

Potential timeline

Prior to Sept 1st, 2022 – Commission places question on ballot either as a result of petition or resolution

November 8, 2022 –        Question to increase commission districts on ballot

Prior to Jan 1st, 2023 –   Commission adopts new districts

Governor either calls special election or declares for general election

If special election:

15-25 days from Governor declaration, political parties call convention to select candidates

Independent candidates submit signatures no more than 25 days from declaration (5% of new commissioner district)

Election held 75-90 days from the declaration

Winners serve until January 10th, 2025

General Election 2024

Candidates for existing Districts 2 & 3 are elected to 4-year terms (2025-2029)

Candidates for new Districts 4 & 5 are elected to 2-year terms (2025-2029)

General Election 2026

Candidates for Districts 1, 4, & 5 are elected to 4-year terms (2027-2031)

General Election 2028

Candidates for Districts 2 & 3 are elected to 4-year terms (2029-2033)