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Primary election rules still in flux

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Confusion still reigns over how many candidates it will take to trigger a primary in the upcoming City Commission elections. But it is beginning to look a bit more likely that it will take 11 or more, not 10 or more as city leaders once thought. If you remember, there was some debate between the city and the Douglas County Clerk’s office over how to interpret a new state law regarding primary elections for city and school board races. Both sides agree that the new law is contradictory, but the city interpreted the law to require 10 or more candidates file for an election before a primary is needed. The County Clerk’s office interpreted it as requiring 11 or more candidates to trigger a primary. The city is now ready to accept the interpretation of the County Clerk’s office, Toni Wheeler, the city’s director of legal services said recently. But now, the County Clerk’s office is pausing before making that interpretation final. Instead, County Clerk Jamie Shew said he’s waiting for a legal opinion from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office on the matter. That opinion is expected to arrive Thursday or Friday, Shew said. Shew said he feels strongly that the law intends for a primary to be held with 11 or more candidates, but he wants to read what the Secretary of State’s office has to say. This much we do know. The general election will be April 7. A primary election, if needed, will be March 3. Lawrence residents have until Jan. 27 to file for one of three at-large seats on the commission. We also know this: Unless more candidates start filing, it will all be a moot point. Currently, four people have filed for City Commission seats. No one has filed for the Lawrence school board. A primary election in Douglas County costs about $40,000, so Shew said he doesn’t want to have one unnecessarily. But a larger issue may be ensuring that a misunderstanding of the law doesn’t leave an election open to a legal challenge. Ever heard of that happening before?Yeah. That is yet another national trend that leaders don’t want to see locally.

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