The Garden City Telegram
3/7/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Voter fix

Some in GOP determined to curb participation.

In a relentless quest to control election outcomes, some Republicans in Kansas now want to make it more difficult for Democrats to participate in the election process.

Currently, voters registered as Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians may change their party affiliation up to 21 days before the August primaries. The proposed legislation essentially would prevent registered voters from changing their party affiliation from June 1 through Sept. 1.

The new proposal came about because of growing interest from registered Democrats in switching parties to vote in GOP primaries.

In a state that's a Republican stronghold, local Democrats usually find themselves on the sidelines as races play out in GOP primaries. Winners often emerge from those primaries because the Democratic Party fails to challenge Republicans in general elections.

Democrats who made the switch before the August 2012 Republican primary irritated ultraconservatives in Kansas who continue doing their best to suppress future votes with Voter ID and like strategies.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who's pushed such ill-advised strategies, naturally supports the latest attempt to squeeze out voters.

But instead of admitting an interest in curbing any possible threat from a growing coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to his fellow ultraconservatives, Kobach cited a need to ease the burden on county election officers who must maintain records of registration changes.

Yet there was no outcry from counties in 2012, when a good number of Democrats who feared the extreme right's attempt to seize control of the Statehouse switched parties to support more moderate Republicans in the primary.

Democrats who want to have a say should feel comfortable changing their party affiliation to support who they view as the best candidate. Of course, they could simply switch over for good, considering so many Kansas elections are decided in Republican primaries.

All registered voters — regardless of their party choice — should have an opportunity to make a difference in the election process. Too few people vote as is.

Lawmakers who believe the goal should be more participation at the polls should reject changes that discourage citizens from participating in their democracy in any way.