Amendment question on Kansas sheriffs explained

13 News at Six
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 2:20 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - There are a few constitutional amendment questions Kansas voters can expect to see on the November ballot.

Residents will be asked to vote yes or no on a proposed amendment that guarantees each citizen’s right to continue electing their county sheriff, with the exception of Riley County, and changes who has the power to remove that person from office.

“The Kansas Sheriffs Association strongly supports a yes vote on Question 2,” said David Groves, Sheriff of Cherokee County and the president of the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association.

He said being able to elect a sheriff gives voters more power.

“We represent the voice of the citizens and it is important for the sheriff to be able to conduct investigations within his or her county based on the merits of those investigations, not subject to political wims of a board that they work for,” Groves added.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas wants to stress voting no will not change that.

“Vote no simply leaves things as the status quo, it makes no changes to the Constitution,” Executive Director of ACLU of Kansas Micah Kubic said. “Right now, voters in local counties can choose whether they want to elect or appoint a sheriff and 104 of the 105 counties have done so. The only one that has not is Riley County who, back in 1974, decided to consolidate and appoint a public safety director instead.”

However, Groves argues it should be a constitutional right.

“The Kansas Sheriffs’ Association wants to solidify the voice of Kansans by making sure that they have a constitutional right to vote for their sheriff because an ability can be taken away,” he said.

Part two of the amendment has also caused some concern.

“A vote yes also changes the way that sheriffs are held accountable in cases of misconduct or recall,” Kubic continued saying, “Right now, the local county attorney or the attorney general can investigate those claims of misconduct and can pursue the steps that would be taken to recall a sheriff that has engaged in objectionable, bad, removable behavior. Voting yes would change it, so that the county attorney, who is closest to the issue, has no role at all. Only the attorney general could step in, in those cases.”

Groves said the second part of the amendment aims to eliminate any conflicts of interest at a local level.

“We understand that from time to time there are instances where a sheriff needs to be involuntarily removed from office,” he said. “We think that the attorney general’s office is the right place for that decision to be made because they are detached from that local political influence.”

The ACLU of Kansas encourages Kansans to weigh all factors when casting their vote.

“I think it is absolutely true that a vote requiring that sheriffs be elected is an example of an infringement on local control. I also think it is true that there are good reasons to elect sheriffs for accountability and there are also good reasons not to elect sheriffs around the professionalism of law enforcement,” Kubic continued saying, “We do not elect our police chiefs in any city in the state, so it is absolutely possible to get professional law enforcement from appointed officials. I think those are the two things that voters themselves will have to think about when they decide how to vote on this and not listen to the legislature.”

You can find the exact language of constitutional amendment question 2 by looking at a sample ballot on the Secretary of State’s website.