Gov. Kelly approves Douglas County waiting until 2024 to elect 2 new commissioners

photo by: Journal-World

The west side of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., is pictured on Sept. 23, 2021.

In a letter dated Dec. 27, Gov. Laura Kelly gave her approval for Douglas County’s two new commissioners to be chosen during the next general election — in 2024.

Voters in Douglas County approved a ballot measure to expand the Douglas County Commission from three members to five in November, and last week the commission adopted a map outlining the boundaries of the five commission districts. By state law, the county had only until Jan. 1, 2023, to approve a new map, resulting in a rapid process of gathering community feedback and commissioners’ opinions as they considered how that map should look.

photo by: Douglas County

The Douglas County Commission adopted this map as the county’s new five-member commission districts Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

But the two new seats will remain vacant for about two years before Douglas County residents have the opportunity to elect the new commissioners and see them sworn in. That’s because along with approving a new map, commissioners had to make a recommendation to Kelly about how the two new commissioners should be elected — either during the next general election, which is the route they decided on and Kelly approved, or in a special election within the next 60 to 90 days. Opting for the general election means that nobody is appointed to fill the new seats in the interim.

The reason 2024 is counted as the next regularly scheduled general election, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew clarified last week, is because it’s the next partisan election. Though elected officials like school board members can appear on ballots during 2023, Shew said those and other positions on the 2023 ballot are nonpartisan and thus the 2023 election doesn’t align with state statute for how members of an expanded County Commission should be elected.

Some public commenters at recent commission meetings urged the commission not to recommend waiting until the 2024 general election, with some saying that voters had made it clear they wanted those new commissioners seated as quickly as possible. Commissioners, for their part, voiced concerns that the quick turnaround for a special election might lead to less voter participation and less opportunity for unaffiliated candidates to successfully file petitions to appear on the ballot.

Along with the newly added Commission Districts 4 and 5, the existing Districts 2 and 3 currently held by Commissioners Shannon Reid and Karen Willey will all appear on the 2024 ballot.


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