Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New laws make voting harder, but still no excuse to skip polls

5/26/2014

New laws passed during the past legislative session take effect July 1, however, one law’s effect will be implemented over two election seasons. The state legislature approved an earlier filing deadline — of June 1 — for Kansans to register to vote and to change their party affiliation, though that won’t impact this year’s Aug. 5 primary election.

In many cases, elections are fought at the primary rather than the general election so these primary races are of particular importance and shouldn’t be overlooked as something that can be turned around during the Nov. 4 general election. By then, it might be too late because no opponent from another party exists placing increased importance on getting in the voting battle earlier during the primaries.

New laws passed during the past legislative session take effect July 1, however, one law’s effect will be implemented over two election seasons. The state legislature approved an earlier filing deadline — of June 1 — for Kansans to register to vote and to change their party affiliation, though that won’t impact this year’s Aug. 5 primary election.

In many cases, elections are fought at the primary rather than the general election so these primary races are of particular importance and shouldn’t be overlooked as something that can be turned around during the Nov. 4 general election. By then, it might be too late because no opponent from another party exists placing increased importance on getting in the voting battle earlier during the primaries.

Unaffiliated voters — those without an expressed party preference — no longer will be able to vote in the primary for either Democrats or Republicans — without affiliating by declaring a party. That party declaration remains on the voting roles until it is changed upon request. Requested changes, however, cannot occur prior to the Sept. 2 state canvass, Janet Paddock, Franklin County clerk, said.

The party affiliation change will prompt additional training of poll workers on how to contend with the new mandates. This year, voters have until July 1 to change their party affiliation, which will allow them to weigh in on either the Democratic or Republican races for sheriff, three open county commission seats, all township clerks, all committeemen and committee women positions, as well as state races. Next year that deadline changes to June 1.

In Franklin County, that change can have significant effect because more than 5,000 people are registered as unaffiliated, alongside 8,509 Republicans and 3,631 Democrats. One exception to the affiliation question are those ballots with special elections. Such is the case in Pomona where voters this year can vote strictly on a special question of whether to support Charter Ordinance 19 for sewage disposal works improvement bonds.

Those residents wanting to register to vote in time to participate in the primary must do so by July 15.

For those who say they don’t have enough time to vote, the clerk’s office, 315 S. Main St., will be open two evenings — until 7 p.m. July 29 and July 31 — and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 to better accommodate voters. Those added hours are in addition to the allocated two weeks of early voting capability at the courthouse. For those who can’t make any of those times either, any voter can go online and request an advance voter application — no reason needs to be provided ­— and have a ballot mailed to them for marking their preferences and returned via U.S. Postal service delivery.

These options mean there’s no good excuse not to vote.

In many other countries, Election Day is a national holiday. That same spirit ought to pervade elections here so new laws, such as the party affiliation mandate at the primaries, don’t put the kibosh on voter engagement and participation in the essential role of state and local elections.

Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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