Little noticed state law change will require one week delay of swearing in of new city commissioners
There won't be a change of power at Lawrence City Hall next week after all. But no, were not in the midst of a coup.
Instead, local election officials are now realizing a change in state law impacts how quickly Tuesday night's election results can be made official. Those results won't be made official until Thursday, April 11, which means Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan can't be sworn into office on Tuesday, April 9, as originally planned.
The two new members of the commission — along with holdover Mike Amyx — will take their oaths on April 16. That's also when the new city commission will hold its election to select a mayor from its ranks.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the change comes from the Voter ID law that became law in January 2012. That law gives counties the option of delaying the canvassing of the vote until the second Thursday after the election. In past years, the vote was canvassed and made official on the first Friday after the election.
Shew said his office believes in taking the extra time because it gives people more time to find their IDs and bring them to the courthouse. The Voter ID law allows people who don't have an ID with them when they visit a polling site to cast a provisional ballot on election day. But they have to provide an ID to the county clerk before the votes are made official.
If you are not familiar with it, the canvassing process is where election officials go over each provisional ballot and rule whether it is valid.
The provisional ballots aren't likely to change the outcome in the Lawrence City Commission race. There were 119 provisionals cast in Lawrence. (Technically, the difference between third and fourth place in the City Commission race is 97 votes, which means nearly all the provisional ballots would have to go to fourth-place finisher Leslie Soden in order for the results to change. That's highly unlikely.) But process is process, and you can't swear someone in until the election results are official. And the provisionals may play a role in some other races. The Baldwin City mayoral race has just a 12-vote margin.
So, if you were planning on rolling out a red carpet for the new commissioners, keep it in storage for another week. If you were planning on bringing lots of treats and beverages to City Hall to celebrate, feel free to go ahead and do that next week. Drop them off at the media table and I'll keep an eye on them for you.