Mary Sanchez

Fix this bit of election nonsense in Wyandotte County

Updated: 2013-12-18T00:14:29Z

By Mary Sanchez

The Kansas City Star

The end of any calendar year is an appropriate time to clear up unfinished business.

How about the Wyandotte County Unified Government race for mayor?

Mark Holland won, defeating fellow Commissioner Ann Murguia. But there was another loser, one that has gone largely unnoticed: fairness.

Most likely by accident, commission members from some parts of the county who run for mayor can lose and stay on the panel. The election cycle is staggered in their favor.

But those who come from other parts of town find their seats on the commission come up for re-election the same year as the mayoral race. So if they shoot for higher office and strike out, they’re bumped from the commission.

Former Commissioner Nathan Barnes gave up his seat to run for mayor. Murguia, and others before her depending on which areas they represent in the county, did not. This isn’t about either commissioner, specifically. It has to do with timing.

No one has seemed to pay much notice to this problem.

Enter Alvin Sykes, a local civil rights advocate who is also knowledgeable about election law. Give the Kansas City, Kan., resident any legal question revolving around innate unfairness in process and he’ll unravel it. Sykes has been discussing the issue with Holland and his staff. During the weekend he sent a detailed note, describing the problem.

He outlines the depth of the concern as a possible violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Sykes notes that since September 1997, if a person was elected a commissioner from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th districts or the 1st district-at-large seat and then ran in the next primary for mayor and lost, that person “parachuted” back into their currently held commission seat for two more years.

The same isn’t true for people who hold either the 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th districts or the 2nd district at-large seat. After all, no one can run for mayor and re-election to their commission seat at the same time.

Sykes argues there are implications of fair representation for voters, but he recognizes that the issue is probably an unintended consequence from when the Unified Government was formed. No shame there.

“Shame comes from the refusal to, or resistance against, correcting the mistake,” Sykes wrote.

He’s got them there.

Do what’s right, clean things up for future elections.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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