A foot of snow could hit Wyandotte County over the next two days, but the election has to be held on Tuesday, according to Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Bruce Newby.
He said he received a message from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Friday reminding him there is no authority in law that would allow Kobach, the governor, or the county election officer to postpone or reschedule the election on account of weather.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, a primary election for Unified Government mayor and three UG Commission positions are on the ballot in Wyandotte County. There’s also a prediction of snow and sleet starting Monday afternoon, after 3 p.m., and continuing later Monday, with heavy snow predicted on Tuesday. (The timing of the snow in the forecast has changed since Saturday.)
No one has the authority to cancel an election, Newby said. “My hands are tied,” he said. “I’ve got to do it.”
He will be watching the weather forecasts very closely on Monday. There will be a meeting on Monday with election staff to discuss possible emergency plans, he added. He may discuss consolidating some polling places he said, and he will also be discussing ways to get election workers to and from the polls, along with getting results to the election office. At this time, the current plan is that all 30 polling places will be open for voting on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If emergency measures are necessary, the media will be notified, but the election will not be postponed or canceled, he said.
Kansas has enough of a history for storms like this, that if the Legislature had ever intended that elections could be rescheduled, it would have put a provision into law, he said. But it hasn’t done that.
Newby said he remembered a snowstorm back in the 1990s on an election day, where all the election workers showed up, people voted and the elections were conducted normally. The election workers helped shovel snow. A lesser number of voters showed up, he said, but the law required that the election must take place when it was scheduled.
What would be the possible effects of a lower turnout in the election Tuesday? Several people who were asked said they did not know. One observer, Murrel Bland, the former editor of the Wyandotte West, said he thought it would not help the minor candidates.
But the bad weather could give more voice to those who voted advance ballots this year.
State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., said last week he had been planning to vote in advance last Friday to accommodate his legislative schedule. Mark Gilstrap, chairman of the Wyandotte County Republican Party, said that because of the weather, he has been planning to vote in advance Monday morning at the election commission office, 850 State Ave.
Registered voters may walk in and vote at the election commission office, 850 State, without any previous reservation or appointment, from 8 a.m. to noon on Monday, Feb. 25. An approved photo identification, such as a driver’s license, is required. Newby said advance voting, by law, will end at noon on Monday at the election commission office.