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Election a Shake-Up for KS Legislature

ElectionLinesPrairiePark 11 6 12 SKVoters at a polling place in Lawrence. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)Republicans won decisive victories in the top races in Kansas. Mitt Romney took the state and all four Kansas members of Congress were re-elected. The Kansas Statehouse will be undergoing a significant change, but not because the number of Democrats and Republicans will be different. KPR’s Stephen Koranda has more on the election results.


Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins will go back to Washington for a third term. After her victory, she said she’s hopeful that lawmakers will be able to get beyond some of the gridlock that has marked Congress as of late.

“Now that the election cycle is behind us, I think that frees the Senate up to actually vote on something . And it give the president the flexibility he’s been wanting to be able to come to Capitol Hill with some serious solutions.”

In the Kansas Statehouse there will be some significant changes. If you just look at the raw numbers, Republicans will still have a majority in the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate. But there’s more to it than that. now conservative Republicans will control the Senate. Previously, a coalition of moderate republicans and democrats in the Senate had blocked pieces of legislation pushed by Governor Sam Brownback and the House leadership. Joe Aistrup is a political science professor at Kansas State university. He says conservatives will probably have the upper hand.

“They should have enough Senate seats such that there can no longer be a moderate, Democratic coalition that comes to spoil, if you will, the more conservative policy prescriptions.”

When the dust settles, it looks like Democrats will probably have about the same number of seats in the legislature they currently do, meaning big Republican majorities. But Aistrup says that won’t mean easy work for Republican leaders. He says there could be around 50 new faces in the Kansas House.

“A lot is unknown about what exactly these 50 new faces are going to want to try to pursue over the course of the next year to two years. So it’s not going to be an easy situation for the Republicans, even though clearly there will be a pretty strong ideological bent towards the more conservative policy.”

The night’s news wasn’t all bad for Democrats in Kansas. Several Democratic senators targeted by Republicans held on to their seats. And Democrats gathered at a watch party in Topeka welcomed the announcement that President Obama had been re-elected.

Voters in the state also approved a ballot measure giving lawmakers the option of lowering property taxes for boats. Supporters say high property taxes on boats means thousands of watercraft are illegally registered in surrounding states, to avoid the Kansas taxes...This election was also a big test for voter ID, and Secretary of State Kris Kobach says it went well. He believes the awareness campaigns worked, and Kansans went to the polls with IDs ready. But he says there were some hiccups caused by the redistricting process, which redrew the state’s political boundaries.

“And so a lot of voters ended up in districts that they hadn’t been voting in before and their polling places changed. So we did have an unusually high number of people who showed up at the wrong polling place because they maybe threw away their registration card when it arrived in the mail, or they thought it was junk mail or something.”

Kobach had predicted around 68 percent of voters would turn out, but he says long lines at many polling places mean the final number could top that.

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