With her election as insurance commissioner made official by the state’s canvassing board, Sen. Vicki Schmidt on Friday resigned her seat in the Legislature, triggering a quest to replace her.
Results of the Nov. 6 general election became official as Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Brant Laue, counsel to the governor, swiftly affirmed the numbers endorsed by county-level officials.
More than a million votes from 57.6 percent of registered Kansans were cast this year, exceeding figures from any other non-presidential election in the state’s recent history.
Some of the races were decided by a handful of votes, including the 72nd District seat in the Kansas House, where Rep. Tim Hodge, D-Newton, reversed an 84-vote deficit on election night to emerge with an 88-vote lead.
Victory wasn’t in doubt for Schmidt, a Republican from Topeka who prevailed by nearly 300,000 votes. She submitted her resignation letter after the results were certified.
“It’s been an honor to serve my friends and neighbors in the Kansas Senate, and I am forever grateful for the confidence they placed in me,” she said. “I am proud of the work done in my legislative service to make Kansas a better place to live, work and raise a family. I look forward to continuing my service to the people of Kansas as the next insurance commissioner.”
Republican precinct committee members in the senator’s district will convene to select someone who will fill her seat for the next two years. Vicki Schmidt won election to the Senate in 2004, followed by three successful re-election campaigns.
Democrats on Thursday chose Rep. Vic Miller to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Laura Kelly, the Democrat from Topeka who beat Kobach by 98,351 votes in the governor’s race.
Kobach said this year’s turnout was extraordinary and surprising, blowing the doors off any numbers Kansas has seen following passage of the National Voter Registration Act in 1993. For the past 20 years, he said, the typical turnout in a non-presidential cycle is 50 to 52 percent.
“You can speculate about why,” Kobach said, “but no question a lot of it has to do with competitive races and effective get-out-the-vote efforts by the campaigns. Nothing brings people to the polls like a competitive race, and of course we saw many spirited races across the state.”
The American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas has asserted the record turnout is directly related to a federal court ruling this year that struck down a Kobach law that required new voters to produce a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship.
After the election, the group’s outgoing executive director, Micah Kubic, said he was heartened by the high voter participation.
“This clearly demonstrates that when unconstitutional, illegal barriers to participation are removed -- as they have been in Kansas since June — eligible citizens want to and actually do participate in democracy,” Kubic said.
Kobach rejected the ACLU narrative, saying the number of people who hadn’t proven citizenship was relatively small.
“We’re talking about a few tens of thousands,” Kobach said, “whereas the increase in total turnout was an extraordinary number” of nearly 200,000.
More than 39 percent of the ballots cast were from advance voters. Hodge benefited from ballots that arrived through the mail after Election Day, as well as provisional ballots, in his victory over Republican challenger Steven Kelly.
Hodge said he won because he worked across the aisle to reverse the trickle-down tax policy imposed by former Gov. Sam Brownback and his Republican allies. Hodge also advocated for exempting food from the state sales tax.
“What I’m thrilled about,” he said, “is that even though some people think it was close, there’s still about 4,000 more people that I can go get to show up at the polls, and I can’t wait to do that because the message of just lowering the tax and governmental burden on the regular guy — that’s the message that works.”