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Group seeking repeal of mask ordinances

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

A group of local residents are collecting signatures in an attempt to repeal city mask ordinances.

If enough signatures of registered voters are collected, the issue of whether to repeal the mask ordinances for the cities of Leavenworth, Lansing and Tonganoxie could be placed on ballots for a special election.

The governing body for each of the three cities has passed an ordinance that requires people to wear face coverings in public spaces. The ordinances were approved as a way to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

A countywide mask mandate is not in place for Leavenworth County. County commissioners opted of the governor’s mask order but recommend that people wear masks.

The people behind the petition drive are calling themselves We the People of Leavenworth County. Separate petitions have been initiated for the ordinances of the three cities.

“We the People believe that it should be the decision of each individual person and business owner,” April Cromer, spokeswoman for the group, said of wearing masks.

She argues people can maintain proper social distancing and good hygiene even if they do not wear masks.

Cromer argues the ordinances approved for Leavenworth, Lansing and Tonganoxie are unconstitutional because they have exemptions for businesses that she says do not apply to churches.

“To me, that is a direct violation of the First Amendment right with churches,” she said.

She said the We the People group began circulating petitions earlier this month.

Cromer is the secretary for the Leavenworth County Republican Party but she said We the People of Leavenworth County is a non-partisan organization.

The mask ordinances for the cities of Leavenworth, Lansing and Tonganoxie are scheduled to expire Jan. 31, but they can be extended.

Cromer said the petitions are worthwhile even if the ordinances expire before an election takes place. She said the petitions will address future mandates as well as the current ones.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski said the petitions must be turned into the individual cities. Klasinski, who is the county’s chief election officer, said her office would have the responsibility of checking the names on the petitions.

Klasinski said about 695 names of registered voters from Leavenworth are needed for a petition for that city to be valid. She said this represents 25% of the number of people who voted in the city’s last municipal election.

Leavenworth is considered a city of the first class in Kansas.

Lansing and Tonganoxie are considered cities of the second class. The petitions for these cities require signatures equal to 40% of the people who voted in the last municipal elections.

For Lansing, 581 signatures are required, Klasinski said.

For Tonganoxie, 288 signatures would be required.

Klasinski said each signature submitted must be witnessed by someone who is collecting signatures for the petitions.

If the petitions are determined to be valid, an election must be held within 90 days. A separate election would be required for each city.

“The city is responsible for the cost of the election,” she said.

Klasinski said she would prefer to have all of the elections on the same day.

Klasinski said the elections could utilize mail-in ballots with approval from the cities.

People wanting to sign petitions concerning the ordinances for the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing can do so at three businesses, Vetter’s Collision Repair, 745 Shawnee St., Celtic Holsters, 505 Cherokee St., and Overlooked Antiques and Military Surplus, 406 Delaware St.

Cromer said people wanting to sign the petition concerning the Tonganoxie ordinance can contact her by email at 322meandyou@gmail.com

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR