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Delay to affect filing date

By Bill Felber

Barring a legislative miracle, Riley County election officials now expect the June 1 candidate filing deadline for many offices to be pushed back to June 10. And they don’t rule out the prospect that the scheduled August 7 primary might be in trouble as well.

The problem is the Kansas Legislature’s inability to finalize plans to redraw legislative and Congressional districts. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office is asserting that if that work is not completed by the close of business today, the June 1 deadline for filing for congressional, legislative and school board offices will be pushed back to June 10.

The Legislature has stalled in its efforts to redraw the state’s four congressional boundaries as well as its 40 state Senate boundaries. Because the 10 state board of education districts are based on the state Senate map, those districts are similarly unclear. Until the boundaries are agreed upon, it is impossible for candidates to know with certainty whether they live in the districts they seek to represent.

The Legislature is scheduled to complete its 90-day session at week’s end, and if it adjourns without completing those tasks the boundaries would probably be thrown into the courts.

Riley County Clerk Rich Vargo said his staff is watching the situation closely, but he and deputy Jolene Keck both noted that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has already issued a directive delaying the registration deadline if redistricting is not completed by day’s end.

Any pushing back of the filing deadline much more than June 20 could call the state’s ability to conduct its Aug. 7 primary into question. That’s because federal law requires that election officials send ballots to “federal service voters” – essentially legally registered voters who are overseas — at least 45 days prior to the election’s date. In the case of the Aug. 7 primary, that means the ballot would have to be set and mailed no later than June 23 – and that date presumes that the federal law counts Sundays and holidays among the 45. County officials would need some time between the filing deadline and the mailing deadline to actually prepare the ballots.

“We may have to send them (overseas voters) a Word document with the names on it,” Vargo said.

The question is especially sensitive in Riley County because its population of military and others whose jobs take them overseas means it regularly has the most overseas registered voters of any county in the state.

Vargo said there are 60 at present, but added that “we’ll get a lot more” as the registration deadline approaches.

The filing deadline change would not impact those seeking to file for county office. That deadline will remain June 1.

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