A bill headed for Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk would make it harder for voters to switch parties before primary elections. Supporters include Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a GOP conservative.
On election ballots, Kansas appears to have two major parties. But for more than a decade, the state has had a three-party system: Democrats, Republicans and conservative Republicans. Not surprisingly, the two parties that share a name are the majority. In the Golden Belt, at least, there are seldom primary elections for Democrats. But there are often several primary elections for Republicans. It gets even worse when the Democrats don’t have a candidate at all. In effect, races are decided in the primaries, but only Republicans get to vote.
Democrats in those cases have two choices if they want to vote in the primary: They can become Republicans for the next year, or they can temporarily become Republicans before the election, then switch back.
Some Republicans say allowing temporary party switching close to an election erodes the integrity of their party. Secretary of State Kobach said the change will hinder “tactical or mischievous” party switching. One possible tactic is for Democrats to help elect the weakest GOP candidate, possibly giving a Democratic nominee a better change in the November general election.
But no one can point to examples of that happening. Conservative Republicans would be more accurate and more honest if they admitted that Democrats who vote in their primaries will vote for the more moderate candidates, not the “weakest” ones. In the Golden Belt, a GOP winner is already assured.
The problem with changing the rules is that more people who want to vote in the primary – which is, for our part of the state, the real election – will simply give in and become permanent Republicans. That, in turn, will lead to even fewer choices in future elections.
We’ve all seen Democrats switch to the Grand Old Party knowing it’s the only way to get elected. Or is it?
Republicans do have a right to choose the rules for their party. In the long run, if Democrats want to have a say in politics they will need to offer more candidates, throughout the state. Heck, they may want to offer multiple candidates, and have a primary or two of their own.
It will be up to those who stay in the Republican party to decided which Republican party will survive.