Political party switching bill clears committee


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Wichita, Kan. -- There's a push underway in the state legislature to make it more difficult for Kansas voters to switch parties before primary elections.

Those who oppose Kansas House Bill 2210 call the bill frightening.

But Kansas Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold says, "What this bill would do is expand the timeframe where you can not switch your party registration. This only affects those who are registered to two political parties."

Currently state law allows a registered voter to switch parties 21 days before the primary. The voter can then switch back before the general election.

The bill would prevent registered voters from changing party affiliations between June 1st and September 1st.

Arnold says, "The last few years we've seen a growing trend of third party organizations trying to manipulate the Republican Party's primary by having their members switch from democrat to republican right before the election to vote for who they assume are weaker candidates to try to get them elected to help them beat them in the general election."

He says, "They don't vote for this person because they believe in their philosophies or where they stand on the issues. They're purely voting for these people because they know they would be the weaker candidate against the democrat challenger in the November election."

Arnold says organizations including the Kansas National Education Association and Mainstream Coalition have sent emails in recent past elections encouraging members to switch to the republican party to vote in the primary then switch back to the democratic party after the primary.

Mark Desetti is KNEA's Director of Political & Legislative Advocacy. Desetti refutes what Arnold says. "The argument that we're throwing elections by having people change is just nonsense."

Desetti says, "If that argument had any substance to it you would see elections that were thrown because of party switching."

Desetti says there are voters who switch affiliation to the republican party to vote in the primary because they don't have a candidate in their own party to vote for.

Desetti says, "There are enormous regions of the state where the decision about who one's representative or senator will be is made in the primary election. And very often democrats don't even file a candidate. If you're a democrat or an independent voter living in those districts, shouldn't you have the opportunity to cast your ballot for a representative to the legislature?"

Arnold says the U.S. Supreme Court has backed party's rights to select their candidates.

"It's not taking away voting rights. he primaries are strictly in the hands of the political party."

The bill was passed out of committee to later be considered on the Senate floor.

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