Kansas Constitutional Amendment 2, County Sheriff Election and Recall Amendment (2022)

On November 8, 2022, voters in Kansas approved Constitutional Amendment 2, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment concerning the election of county sheriffs. The measure passed with 61.6% voting in favor.

The amendment changed the Kansas Constitution to require counties to elect their sheriff, except for Riley County which had abolished the office of sheriff in 1974. It also set recall election or a writ of quo warranto by the state attorney general as the only ways a sheriff can be involuntarily removed from office.

The passage of Amendment 2 constitutionally enshrined having elected sheriffs in Kansas counties, while still allowing Riley County to maintain its unique consolidated law enforcement model. It represented a victory for those wishing to preserve local accountability through direct election of sheriffs.

Kansas County Sheriffs

Kansas sheriffs are constitutional officers tasked with overseeing law enforcement operations and the county jail. Their duties include patrolling unincorporated areas, serving warrants, transporting prisoners, providing courthouse security, and investigating crimes.

Election and Appointment of Sheriffs

Prior to the amendment, state law provided for sheriffs to be elected to 4-year terms in counties that did not adopt a consolidated law enforcement agency. The qualifications included being a U.S. citizen, resident of the county, having a high school degree, and no felony convictions.

Sheriffs could also be subjected to recall elections if a petition was submitted with signatures equal to 40% of the votes cast in the last election.

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Riley County’s Consolidated Enforcement

Riley County operates under a consolidated law enforcement model without an elected sheriff. In 1974, voters approved combining the Riley County Sheriff’s Office, Manhattan Police Department, and Ogden Police Department into a single agency.

The Riley County Police Department is overseen by a director appointed by the agency’s governing board rather than a directly elected sheriff. Riley County is the only one in Kansas without an elected sheriff.

The Amendment

The key components of Constitutional Amendment 2 are:

Full Text

The full text of the amendment is:

§ 2. County and township officers. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), each county shall elect a sheriff for a term of four years by a majority of the qualified electors of the county voting thereon at the time of voting designated for such office pursuant to law in effect on January 11, 2022, and every four years thereafter.

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to a county that abolished the office of sheriff prior to January 11, 2022. Such county may restore the office of sheriff as provided by law and such restoration shall be irrevocable. A county that restores the office of sheriff shall elect a sheriff by a majority of the qualified electors of the county voting thereon for a term of four years. Such sheriff shall have such qualifications and duties as provided by law. The time of voting for the office of sheriff may be provided for by the legislature pursuant to section 18 of article 2 of this constitution.

(c) The filling of vacancies and the qualifications and duties of the office of sheriff shall be as provided by law.

(d) The legislature shall provide forsuch other county and townshipofficers as may be necessary.

§ 5. Removal of officers. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), all county and township officers may be removed from office, in such manner and for such cause, as shall be prescribed by law.

(b) A county sheriff only may be involuntarily removed from office by recall election pursuant to section 3 of article 4 of this constitution or a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.

Changes to Constitution

The key changes made to the Kansas Constitution are:

  • Requiring election of sheriffs in counties that had the office as of January 2022
  • Exempting Riley County since it abolished the sheriff’s office
  • Setting recall election or attorney general writ as only removal methods
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Campaigns For and Against

The campaigns surrounding Amendment 2 focused on the balance of local control and accountability.

Supporters

  • Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
  • Kansas Sheriffs Association
  • Many Republican legislators
  • Most county sheriffs

They argued it preserves the accountability of having an elected sheriff while protecting Riley County’s chosen structure.

Opponents

  • ACLU of Kansas
  • Some Democratic lawmakers
  • Riley County Police Department

They said it infringes on local control by mandating elected sheriffs statewide.

No fundraising committees were registered by either side.

Election Results

At the election on November 8, 2022, Constitutional Amendment 2 was approved by voters.

  • Yes: 61.6%
  • No: 38.4%

The amendment passed in 94 of Kansas’s 105 counties. Rural counties primarily voted yes, while more urban counties supported consolidating law enforcement.

Similar Measures Elsewhere

  • In 2000, Connecticut voters removed sheriffs as constitutional officers
  • In 2020, King County, WA returned the sheriff to an appointed position

Path to the Ballot

Amendments to the Kansas Constitution must pass the legislature with 2/3 majorities in both chambers before going to voters.

The timeline for Amendment 2:

  • Introduced January 13, 2022 as HCR 5022
  • Passed House 97-24 on February 23
  • Passed Senate 36-2 on March 23
  • Adopted by House 91-31 on April 26
  • Referred to November 8 general election ballot

Aftermath and Effects

With the amendment’s passage, Kansas sheriffs are now constitutionally required offices elected every 4 years in all counties besides Riley.

Sheriffs praised the vote as preserving local accountability and their role serving communities. Critics said it infringed local control and consolidated enforcement should remain an option.

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Looking ahead, further changes related to sheriff qualifications, duties, or recall procedures will require constitutional amendments. Riley County’s structure is also locked in.

Conclusion

The approval of Constitutional Amendment 2 requiring elected sheriffs was a victory for supporters of direct accountability in law enforcement. With rare exception, Kansas residents will now vote for their county sheriff every four years.

FAQs

What did the amendment do?

It amended the state constitution to require Kansas counties to elect their county sheriff, with the exception of Riley County which does not have the office.

How are sheriffs elected in Kansas?

Sheriffs are elected to 4-year terms by a majority vote in their county. The election takes place during the nationwide general election in presidential election years.

What happens in Riley County?

Riley County is exempt from having an elected sheriff since it adopted consolidated law enforcement in 1974. It will continue operating the Riley County Police Department overseen by an appointed director.

Can Kansas sheriffs still be recalled?

Yes, the amendment did not change the existing process for the public to recall an elected sheriff through petition signatures.

What vote was needed to pass the amendment?

Constitutional amendments need a simple majority of votes cast to be approved. Amendment 2 passed with 61.6% voting yes.

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