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Johnson County's Top Election Official Abruptly Resigns

After three years as Johnson County's top election official, Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker is resigning. He was appointed by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
After three years as Johnson County's top election official, Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker is resigning. He was appointed by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Johnson County's top election official, Ronnie Metsker, is resigning just over a year after former Secretary of State Kris Kobach appointed him to a new four-year term. 

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab announced the resignation in a statement, but did not say why Metsker is stepping down. All requests for comment from Metsker were directed to the secretary of state's office.

"Under his management, the Johnson County Election Office oversaw a new era of election administration with modern technology and the implementation of a new voting system," Schwab said.

During his near four years as election commissioner, Metsker was scrutinized for serious delays in election results.

In the 2016 election, Johnson County was the last county in Kansas to report election results due to a "huge influx" of advance ballots, voter registrations and higher voter turnout, as well as old voting machines. In last year's primaries, even with new machines, Johnson County again the last to report results to the point that several statewide results couldn't be called until the next morning.

There were also concerns regarding Metsker's political ties: He had been chairman of the Johnson County GOP for seven years before his appointment.

Plus, when Kobach ran for Kansas governor in 2018, he and Metsker communicated on the night of the primary, according to a Kansas City Star report. That raised questions about whether Kobach, who as secretary of state would have overseen the elections, had any influence on the close race against opponent then-Gov. Jeff Colyer. 

Until a permanent replacement is named, the Johnson County Election Office will be jointly managed by county employees under the supervision of Schwab. He has appointed a six-member committee from his office and the county government to interview candidates. The application period ends on Jan. 6. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Copyright 2019 KCUR 89.3

Andrea Tudhope is a freelance reporter for KCUR, and an associate producer for Central Standard. She covers everything from sexual assault and homicide, to domestic violence and race relations. In 2012, Andrea spent a year editing, conducting interviews and analyzing data for the Colorado Springs Gazette series "Other Than Honorable," which exposed widespread mistreatment of wounded combat veterans. The series, written by investigative reporter Dave Philipps, won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2014. Since graduating from Colorado College in 2013 with a degree in Comparative Literature and Philosophy, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post and The Colorado Independent. She is currently working on a book based on field research and interviews she conducted in Dublin, Ireland in 2012.