Kansas voters to decide on preserving election of sheriffs

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas voters will decide whether to solidify the tradition of electing sheriffs into the state constitution.

The state House voted 91-31 today to approve a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution. It would declare that almost every sheriff in the state must be elected to a four-year term. If passed, it would ensure that counties or state lawmakers can’t change that.

(KOAM Poll: Do you think sheriffs should be elected to a four-year term? Vote here)

The Senate already passed the measure 39-1, so it goes on the ballot in November 2022. Approval by a simple majority of voters statewide would add it to the Kansas constitution.

Supporters of the proposed amendment say sheriffs should be directly accountable to voters.

“The office of sheriff has deep historical roots, and the longstanding practice of election rather than appointment makes sheriffs uniquely accountable to the people. I commend the large bipartisan majorities in the Legislature for giving Kansas voters the opportunity to enshrine the elected office of sheriff in our state constitution, and I look forward to supporting and campaigning for this amendment this fall.” – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Counties have been electing sheriffs since 1857. According to the Associated Press, all but one of the state’s 105 counties still do. The exception is Riley County in northeastern Kansas. Officials there consolidated its sheriff’s office with the Manhattan and Ogden City police departments in 1974. It has the combined department answer to a board led by local officials.

The proposed amendment would allow Riley County to keep its setup. But, if voters there change to an elected sheriff, the move would be “irrevocable.”