With so many local, state and federal offices up for election in 2020, Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus said it’s possible there could be more paper at the ballot box in November.
That may be a first for Maskus, who plans to retire in 2021 after 41 years working in the Ellis County Clerk’s Office. She can’t recall ever having two ballot papers.
“This will be my last year and I’m hoping it’ll be just one piece of paper,” Maskus said, “But time will tell.”
The general election is Nov. 3 and the filing deadline for independent candidates is noon Monday, Aug. 3.
The primary is Tuesday, Aug. 4, and party-affiliated candidates must file by noon Monday, June 1.
Local and state officials are already preparing for the election.
“County clerks from across the state have a phone conversation most weeks with the Kansas secretary of state,” Maskus said.
Besides elected offices at every level of government, the Kansas Legislature, which is now in session, will decide whether to put any constitutional questions on the ballot for voters statewide to decide.
The first item of business for Ellis County voters will be a sales tax election this spring.
The Ellis County Commission has been cutting county budgets across the board to make up for a critical shortfall in revenue. The commission will ask voters through a spring mail-in ballot to authorize up to a half-cent in sales taxes to address the budget crunch.
To vote on the sales tax questions, county residents must register online or at the county clerk’s office by 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 17.
Maskus’ office will mail out ballots this spring to all qualified voters in Ellis County and they must be returned to the county clerk’s office by April 7. For the vote to count, voters must sign the postage-paid envelope included with their ballot, then mail it back to Maskus’ office. Voters also can deliver their ballot to Maskus’ office, or drop it in the county treasurer’s outside drop box at the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main.
Two different sales tax questions will ask voters to approve 10-year sales taxes to start Oct. 1. One question will ask voters to authorize a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for health care services, such as the county’s ambulance service. A second question will ask voters to authorize a quarter-cent general purpose sales tax to pay for road improvements and other county expenses. Revenue from that tax will be shared proportionally with each city in the county.
The county commissioners plan to hold town hall meetings to explain their plans for spending the sales tax proceeds, including three in Hays, two each in Victoria and Ellis, and one in Schoenchen. They will go from late February through early March.
The last countywide sales tax that voters approved expired in September 2018.
Primary and general election
To vote in the August primary election, residents must register by close of business July 14. To vote in the November general election, they must register by close of business Oct. 13.
To register to vote online, residents can go to the Kansas Secretary of State’s web site, https://www.kdor.ks.gov/Apps/VoterReg/Default.aspx.
People are already registering, Maskus said, and web site registration has been instantaneous.
“I even had one call me and say how soon do you get it?” Maskus said. “She said, ‘Let me just register and see if you get it. And I had it within a minute.”
For the primary, Democrats and Republicans will choose their party candidates to advance to the general election. Any voter not party affiliated doesn’t vote in the primary.
There are dozens of offices for the primary and general elections, including President and Vice President of the United States.
“This comes from the Secretary of State’s Office,” said Maskus, picking up a sheet of paper with a full page of single-spaced election information. “So you’re going to have all of these. Of course, president is going to be one. That usually brings out more voters, so we hope to see that.”
There’s also one U.S. senator, all four U.S. representatives, state senators and representatives, two Kansas Supreme Court Justices, seven Kansas Court of Appeals Judges, two district judges, seven county offices, precinct committeeman and woman for each of the county precincts, and trustee/treasurer for each of the county’s nine townships.
At the county level, offices up for election are county clerk, treasurer, sheriff, county attorney and register of deeds. County Clerk Maskus and Sheriff Ed Harbin are retiring as their terms expire. County Attorney Tom Drees has said he won't run again for county attorney. Register of Deeds Rebecca Herzog and Treasurer Lisa Schlegel haven’t filed for re-election.
Also at the county level are second district county commissioner, held by Dustin Roths, and third district county commissioner, held by Dean Haselhorst.
So far, two candidates have filed for Ellis County Sheriff, Al Ackerman and Undersheriff Scott J. Braun, both Republicans. Julie Mercer, Democrat, has filed for treasurer. Christopher Lyon has filed for county attorney.
Candidate filings can be viewed on the Ellis County web site at www.ellisco.net, following the menu to Government, Election, and Candidate Filings.
All 40 state senators, including Rick Billinger, 40th district, are up for election. All 125 state representatives are up for election, including Barb Wasinger, 111th district, and Ken Rahjes, 110th district.
Anyone wishing to see if they’re a registered voter can contact the County Clerk’s office at 785-628-9410, or go to the Secretary of State's web site and view their registration history.