WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas voters are getting a say on two more possible changes to the Kansas Constitution. In August, they voted down a “Value Them Both” abortion amendment. On Nov. 8, they will decide on amendments about legislative authority and about county sheriffs.

County Sheriff’s Amendment: Part 1

The amendment has two parts. The first part would keep the job of sheriff as an elected position, except in Riley County, which has had a countywide police department since 1974.

The Kansas Reflector said this became an issue when Johnson County discussed making the sheriff an appointed position instead of an elected one. The Kansas Reflector said the discussion started because the Johnson County sheriff had launched a controversial investigation into unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

The Kansas Sheriff’s Association (KSA) wants people to vote yes on the proposed amendment. It says there have been unsuccessful attempts to eliminate the Office of Sheriff in Phillips, Shawnee, Bourbon and Reno counties. The KSA says Sedgwick County has also mentioned it.

Women for Kansas has come out against the proposed amendment. The group says, “The elevation of sheriffs to constitutional officers is unprecedented and undemocratic.”

Women for Kansas calls the explanatory statement on the ballot deceptive.

“A casual reader might conclude from the ballot explanation that an affirmative vote will give voters the right to elect their county sheriff,” the group said in a release to KSN News. “In fact since the beginnings of statehood KS state law has required the election of county sheriffs.”

Graham County Sheriff Cole Presley told KSN News said that it is true that Kansas has always elected sheriffs. However, he said that comes from laws that can be easily changed by the legislature.

“Moving this requirement to the Constitution requires the consent of the voters before it could be changed again,” Cole said.

“The reason we want to see county sheriffs continue to be elected is that it holds the high-ranking law enforcement officer in each county directly accountable to the public rather than a board,” he said. “This frees him or her up to make decisions when necessary and not rely on someone else during times of crisis or emergency.”

County Sheriff’s Amendment: Part 2

The second part of the amendment would also make it so that the only way to remove a sheriff from office before their term was up is by a recall election or by action initiated by the state attorney general.

The KSA says the way Kansas law is currently written, county attorneys and district attorneys have that power, too. It says the current situation creates a conflict of interest between attorneys and sheriffs, who are both elected by the same residents.

Women for Kansas wants county and district attorneys to still have the authority to begin ouster proceedings against a sheriff.

Voting yes means you want the sheriff to continue to be an elected position, and you want the state attorney general, instead of a county/district attorney, to have the power to begin the ousting of a sheriff.

Voting no means no current change to counties that elect sheriffs and no change to the ouster process, leaving the Kansas constitution as it is.


What you will see on your ballot

On your ballot, the amendment will be labeled: Question 2 Submitted. It will include this explanation:

Explanatory statement. 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.

“A vote for this proposition 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 via popular vote. The amendment would also direct 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.

“A vote against this proposition would not make any changes to the constitution and would retain current law concerning the election of a sheriff and the procedures for involuntary removal of a sheriff from office.

“Shall the following be adopted?

Ҥ 2. County and township officers. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), each county shall elect a sheriff for a term of four years by a majority of the qualified electors of the county voting thereon at the time of voting designated for such office pursuant to law in effect on January 11, 2022, and every four years thereafter.

“(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to a county that abolished the office of sheriff prior to January 11, 2022. Such county may restore the office of sheriff as provided by law and such restoration shall be irrevocable. A county that restores the office of sheriff shall elect a sheriff by a majority of the qualified electors of the county voting thereon for a term of four years. Such sheriff shall have such qualifications and duties as provided by law. The time of voting for the office of sheriff may be provided for by the legislature pursuant to section 18 of article 2 of this constitution.

“(c) The filling of vacancies and the qualifications and duties of the office of sheriff shall be as provided by law.

“(d) The legislature shall provide for such other county and township officers as may be necessary.

§ 5. Removal of officers. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), all county and township officers may be removed from office, in such manner and for such cause, as shall be prescribed by law.

“(b) A county sheriff only may be involuntarily removed from office by recall election pursuant to section 3 of article 4 of this constitution or a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.”

Voters can choose between yes (modify the constitution) or no (no changes to the constitution).