TOPEKA, (KSNT)- Kansas Republicans are split on how statewide elections should be run.
A bill that would require runoff elections between two leading candidates in a race could die in committee.
In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau, Representative Pat Proctor, a Republican from Leavenworth who chairs the House Elections Committee, said the bill will likely not make it to the floor this year. Proctor noted issues with the legislation that need to be addressed, before being put up for debate.
“There are some challenges with military mail-in ballots… The current statute says they have to be out in 45 days before the election and the runoff is only 30 days or so after the election,” Proctor said. “I’m not sure that it’s going to make it out of committee this year.”
The bill was introduced by Representative Les Mason, a Republican from McPherson, who testified in support of the legislation in a hearing Tuesday. The committee has yet to work on the bill.
Representative Brandon Woodard, a democrat from Lenexa who is the Ranking Minority Member on the committee, believes the push comes from last year’s tight race for Kansas Governor. Democratic Incumbent Laura Kelly narrowly defeated Republican nominee Derek Schmidt with 49.9% of the vote.
“The people of Kansas have spoken…,” Woodard said. “I think the system that is in place allows for both major political parties to participate, but also independents and libertarians.”
In his testimony Tuesday, Representative Mason argued that it’s been years since a gubernatorial candidate has cracked at least 50% of the vote.
In the last three gubernatorial elections, a winner has been declared with the leading candidate
earning less than 50% of the total vote, including 2014’s winner Sam Brownback. It’s my belief
that the citizens of Kansas deserve to have the confidence that those who are leading, at the
statewide level, have the support of the majority of Kansans. I, further, believe that the
candidate winning with a majority of the vote could legitimately claim a mandate to govern.
Conducting a runoff election between the top two vote getters would ensure that the eventual
winner was supported by the majority of Kansans.
Additionally, during the most recent general election campaign, we saw a huge influx of “darkRepresentative Les Mason, R-McPherson
money” used to prop up a third-party candidate. Knowing that a runoff election would be a likely outcome of the general election, would most certainly render the “dark money” investment a moot point and wasted effort.
Mason noted that it would be “impossible to predict who would have prevailed in 2014, 2018, and 2022, had this bill already been law.”
Proctor said, while the bill will likely not make it out of committee this year, he believes it “has some weight.”
“I’ll leave it to the larger body whether it’s a legitimate concern or not…I think it has some weight,” Proctor said.
Proctor said one bill that is likely to be put up for debate is House Bill 2056. It would require advance voting ballots to be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Currently, there’s a three-day grace period for ballots postmarked by Election Day.
A hearing was held Thursday for the bill. To watch the full hearing, click here.