June 13, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Constitutional amendment on November ballot would preserve sheriff elections

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The second constitutional amendment before Kansas voters on November 8th proposes to maintain election as the method of selecting Kansas sheriffs in the 104 of the 105 counties that do so currently. Riley is the only Kansas county that appoints its sheriff. The county abolished the office in 1974 in favor of a countywide police department governed by a Law Enforcement Agency Board with an appointed director.

Here’s the summary of the amendment voters will see:

This amendment would preserve the right of citizens of each county that elected a county sheriff as of January 11, 2022, to continue electing the county sheriff. The amendment would also provide that a county sheriff only may be involuntarily removed from office pursuant to either a recall election or a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.”

Passage of the amendment will have no effect on Riley County’s procedure of appointing its sheriffs.

The amendment is the result of recent criticism of Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden by county commissioners and others. The conservative lawman has been accused of “hyper-partisanship” by Commissioner Janae Hanzlick for his statements questioning the security of Johnson County elections and his opposition to mask mandates. The county charter commission last year considered amending its bylaws to make the sheriff an appointed position but in the end, took no action.

Rep. Fred Patton is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and urges approval of the amendment:

“Since territorial times, Kansas has had elected sheriffs held accountable directly to the voters.  To effectively execute their duties, it is important that the chief law enforcement officer of the county have independent authority and not be influenced by other elected officials.  This amendment will place in our Constitution the time-tested practice of electing our sheriffs.”

The amendment will require a simple majority for passage.

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