Attention, unaffiliated voters in Johnson County: The future of Kansas rests in your hands.
Too dramatic? Maybe.
But numbers don't lie: Roughly one out of every five Kansas voters without a declared party membership lives in Johnson County. If enough of those voters give careful thought before casting their ballots in the Aug. 7 GOP primary, provocateurs like GOP gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach will be in trouble.
Johnson County Republicans could spell doom for Kobach on their own, of course. There were roughly 185,000 registered Republicans in the county in 2016, by far the most in any county in Kansas.
But some Johnson County Republicans will vote for Kobach. And Democrats won't be a factor in the GOP primary. Under a change in the law engineered by Kobach, the deadline for switching parties for the primary has passed.
That leaves unaffiliated voters. They are allowed to cast ballots in a primary by choosing a party on Election Day. An unaffiliated voter can register as a Republican and cast a Republican primary ballot, or as a Democrat and vote for Democrats.
Some unaffiliated voters in Johnson County may declare as Democrats. There's a crowded Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District this year, and Democrats are picking a gubernatorial candidate, too.
Those decisions are important. But I'm guessing unaffiliated voters who want to make a real difference will resist the temptation and pick up a Republican ballot on primary day.
Kansas is just now digging out from the disaster of the Sam Brownback years. There is still work to do, of course — the sales tax on food is too high, and schools are still underfunded — but two years of hard work have pulled the state away from the abyss.
Johnson Countians have led that effort, at the polls and in Topeka. They'll be loath to watch their progress evaporate.
There are roughly 120,000 unaffiliated voters in Johnson County, again the most in Kansas. They could play a critical role if they turn out and vote in the GOP primary.
But — and this is crucial — their votes must be cast for the same candidate. If the anti-Kobach vote splits, he could still win the Republican nomination.
Right now, Gov. Jeff Colyer appears to be the most viable non-Kobach option in the GOP primary. That might change in the next few weeks, but if it holds until Aug. 7, the choice for unaffiliated voters in Johnson County will be obvious.
Voters worried about picking Brownback's second-in-command should remember it's a primary election. In November, they can vote for anyone, including a Democrat.
There is still time to register. The deadline is July 17.
To date, the Kansas primaries have been relatively quiet affairs in Johnson County. That's about to change: Voters have a critical choice to make. That's true for loyal Republicans and Democrats, but also true for Johnson Countians who claim no party at all.