Retention of Kansas Supreme Court justices has voters split

Kansas Supreme Court (KSN photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – In the latest KSN News poll conducted by SurveyUSA, KSN asked 641 Kansas voters if the justices should be retained?  Twenty percent said none should be retained, and that all five on the bench should be gone. Fifteen percent said only one should be retained, while 16 percent said that two to four justices should stay. Twenty six percent said that want all justices to stay. Twenty-two percent were undecided.

There are two big arguments in the retention of our Kansas Supreme Court justice in the upcoming election. The court’s decision against the death penalty in the Carr brothers case, and the ongoing issue of school funding.

KSN decided to look into the issue dividing voters.

Right now on television, the Carr murders are in ads for those wanting to oust judges saying the death penalty should have stuck. Then, there is another ad saying the Carr brothers will never be released from prison, and the judges should be retained. At issue, the Kansas Supreme Court decision to overturn the death penalty in this case. It was sent back to the state after the US Supreme Court said that sentence was wrongfully overturned.

The other big issue is school funding, where justices allowed more money for schools, and some fiscal conservatives say the justices are too liberal.

The ads may be working on both sides with 22 percent still undecided if they will vote to retain any of the justices.

“I think one of the things that’s driving the vote to retain the judges is the overwhelming support for increased school funding, and then the Supreme Court decisions that have supported increased school funding in the past,” said KSN Political Analyst Jeff Jarman.

Jarman says the uncertainty of voters is very much driven by school funding and the fight to stop school funding cuts. Justices have ruled schools should get more money. The governor has pushed lawmakers to go a different direction.

“It’s not surprising that we would have an effort to oust judges who are not making decisions that are consistent with the governor and the legislature,” said Jarman.

Our last KSN poll earlier this month found the majority of you, 68 percent, believe school funding should be increased.

“I think advertising can make a big difference, with roughly a quarter of the electorate unsure, with the Supreme Court not being something a lot of people pay a lot of attention to. Late advertising this last week could certainly make the difference in this campaign,” added Jarman. “The reason the political parties are now involved in retention decisions, is to protect the independence and legitimacy of the courts.”

Jarman adds that the Carr brothers case, combined with that ongoing school finance case is bringing more attention to the Kansas Supreme Court. He says ultimately, that could bring some new people out to vote.