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Johnson County Residents Challenge Eligibility Of Newly Elected Kansas Legislator

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Johnson County Sheriff's Office
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Eleven Johnson County voters are challenging the eligibility of newly elected Adam T. Thomas, an Olathe Republican, to take his seat in the Kansas House of Representatives.

The voters, 10 residents of Olathe and one resident of Spring Hill, allege that Thomas, who won the 26th District seat, was not a resident of the district when he declared his candidacy or ran for the seat. If true, that would violate the Kansas Constitution.

Mark Johnson, the voters’ attorney, says Kansas law appears to say that if Thomas is not seated, then the candidate who lost the election is seated – in this case the Democrat, Deann Mitchell.

“If they vote not to seat him, then I think they have to seat the only other person who was a qualified candidate, and that’s the other candidate that ran in November,” Johnson said.

Kansas law for contested elections is somewhat convoluted, but it requires voters challenging a candidate’s eligibility to file the challenge in district court. A judge then gathers the evidence and, within 20 days, sends it to the speaker of the Kansas House. A panel appointed by the speaker – three Democrats and three Republicans – then recommends whether to seat him. After that, the full House votes on the matter.

In August, the Johnson County District Attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint against Thomas for election-related perjury. Thomas was arrested and released on $2,500 bail. The criminal case is pending.

Despite the felony charge, Thomas was allowed to run and defeated Mitchell, garnering 54.5 percent of the vote.

Thomas could not be reached for comment. 

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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