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Former lawmaker named NE Kan. elections official

Published on -9/18/2012, 7:32 AM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A former Kansas House member who runs a home-renovation business took over Monday as election commissioner in Shawnee County, a post that oversees the administration of voting in one of the state's most populous counties.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced that former Rep. Andrew Howell will fill the remaining two years of former Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter's four-year term. Deiter stepped down last week after 20 years to take an appointment from Gov. Sam Brownback as a district magistrate judge for four rural northeast Kansas counties.

Howell, 43, is a former Fort Scott police officer who represented a southeast Kansas district in the House for a decade before deciding not to seek re-election in 2004, serving on committees that dealt with tax, budget and redistricting issues. Since then, he has run his small renovation business in the Topeka area.

Kobach cited the diversity of Howell's professional experiences as something that made him the best qualified of a pool of about half a dozen serious applicants.

"This job isn't just about the accumulation of experience. This job is about the ability to foresee problems, to understand technology, to train people, to administer those individuals once trained," Kobach said during a news conference. "It's that combination of skills that Andrew brings in that uniquely qualifies him for this job."

Elections in 101 of the state's 105 counties are administered by elected county clerks. However, under Kansas law, the secretary of state appoints election commissioners for the four most populous counties -- Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte.

Howell said his home-renovation company has four employees. The Shawnee County election commissioner's office has seven full-time employees, though its budget allows a staff of nine.

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