Douglas County clerk critical of proposed election change
Douglas County's chief election official, County Clerk Jamie Shew, says he wishes legislators who keep passing new voting laws would be around to deal with angry voters who are tripped up by the changes.
"We'll get yelled at," over the newest proposal, Shew predicted. The bill says no one who is registered as a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian will be able to switch party affiliation between June 1, which is the deadline for candidates to file for office for the Aug. 5 Republican and Democratic primaries, and the end of August.
Current law says voters registered with a party can switch to another party up until two weeks before the primary.
Republicans, who are the majority party in Kansas, see this proposed restriction as a way to stop Democrats from switching parties to influence GOP primaries, whether to try to set up the weakest Republican candidate for the general election or to elect the Republican candidate most aligned with their interests when there is little or no Democratic opposition in the November general election.
"The primary election belongs to the political party, not to the general public," said Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold. "It's the mechanism whereby the party selects its candidates."
The legislation was proposed by the Kansas Republican Party, approved by only Republicans in the Legislature and now sits on the desk of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who is reviewing the bill.
Shew sees the proposal as another impediment to voting.
"This is part of our frustration," Shew said. "The state just continues to add complexity and confusion to elections."
He said the number of rules added to elections over the past several years "is mind boggling," and hinders elections.
In 2012, a law took effect requiring Kansans to have a photo ID when voting in person. Then in 2013, a law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote took effect. Both laws are the subjects of lawsuits.
Shew said he didn't think there was much party switching going on in Douglas County.
And Shew disagreed with Arnold's contention that the primaries should protect the political parties' processes.
"If this is true, should we turn the selection process over to the parties and remove the counties from running these elections? It would save our county about $130,000 to not run the August election," he said.