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GOP pushes bill to limit party switching to vote

Published on -3/6/2014, 10:48 AM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The Kansas Republican Party is pushing a bill in the state Legislature that would make it more difficult for voters to switch parties before voting in primary elections.

Supporters testified Wednesday in favor of a bill that would prevent registered voters from changing their party affiliations from June 1 through Sept. 1. Voters can currently change their party affiliation up to 21 days before the August primaries. Unaffiliated voters can pick a party at any time.

Clay Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party, said primary elections belong to political parties, not the general public, because they allow the party to select its candidates. He said he believes voters are being urged to switch parties to vote for a GOP candidate who would have a more difficult time winning a general election, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/P3WALI ).

Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, who supported the bill in the Kansas House, told members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee that he has only anecdotal evidence from Facebook postings that people are being urged to switch parties to affect the primary.

"We don't have any specific data," Esau said.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also supports the bill, saying it would reduce the workload of county election officers.

State Sen. Kay Wolf, a Republican from Prairie Village, said she had not heard of any widespread voter switching. And the Mainstream Coalition, a non-partisan advocacy group, said the measure would restrict residents from voting for the party of their choice.

Coalition member Mark Dugan, said many people want to vote for the best candidate, regardless of political party.

"For these conscientious voters, any restriction on the ability to choose party affiliation is a restriction on the ability to choose their leaders," he said.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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