Kansas GOP takes aim at party switchers

03/05/2014 5:41 PM

03/05/2014 6:06 PM

Party crashers of Kansas, beware. Your state Legislature has you in its sights.

I speak not of those who might try to slip uninvited into the governor’s inaugural ball, but of a different kind of intruder — those scoundrels who register as a member of a political party just before a primary election, presumably for nefarious purposes. You know who you are.

Or do you?

A bill in the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee would prevent registered voters from changing their party affiliations from June 1 to Sept. 1. It was filed at the request of the Kansas Republican Party, whose executive director said he was concerned about organized efforts by third parties to get voters to join the GOP in hopes of boosting primary candidates who would be more likely to lose in the general election.

According to

this story

in the Lawrence Journal-World, Kansas GOP executive Clay Barker was unable to cite a specific example of party-switching for the purpose of sabotage. So was Rep. Keith Esau of Olathe, a Republican who sponsored the bill, which has already been passed by the House.

It’s no secret that a good number of Kansans with Democratic leanings register as Republicans to be able to affect primaries. Johnson County is a hotbed for this activity. But the people I know who do this are hoping to elect moderate Republicans, not unqualified candidates who stand a chance of being knocked off by a Democrat. The Star’s Midwest Voices columnist Aimee Patton walks us through the logic in this

recent column

.

Frankly, in vast swaths of Kansas any Republican candidate with a pulse can knock off a Democrat of sterling credentials. Party swappers understand that by throwing their support behind an incompetent Republican, they only increase their chances of being represented by that person. They realize that the only thing standing between them and an ultra-conservative state government is “the mods,” as that beleaguered tribe is sometimes known.

Surely Barker understands this too. Is he proposing an extended moratorium period as part of an effort to purge moderates from his party? Somewhere, Ronald Reagan is either ticked off or sad.

Barker and Esau want to fix something that isn’t broken. The Legislature should stuck with the current law, which allows voters to switch their party affiliation up to three weeks before the August primaries.

Or better yet, go with a system like Missouri’s where primary voters can request whichever party’s ballot they prefer, regardless of their voter affiliation.

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