Much like being “Machiavellian” — typically a negative term for someone who unemotionally, strategically and deceitfully manipulates others, Kobach earned his own title from, among other reasons, his recent support to the Kansas Legislature for a restriction on party affiliation changes in the weeks before elections. House Bill 2210 prevents voters from switching parties before the primary election — essentially June 1 through Sept. 1. If Gov. Sam Brownback signs the legislation, which seems certain, those voters who previously might have changed parties up to 21 days before the August primary election no longer will be able to do so.
Two of the bill’s supporters, state Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, and Clay Barker, Kansas Republican Party executive director, admit they want to stop the perception of gamesmanship involving Democrats switching parties to sway Republican primary elections, though they offered no specific facts to back up their concerns, according to a report in the Lawrence Journal-World. Both have a feeling some voters — particularly those in large voting blocs, such as teachers’ unions — might be encouraging their members to switch parties close to an election to help ensure the weaker candidate within the Republican Party wins in the primary so the Democratic opponent in the general election would face a less-difficult obstacle. The reality, however, is that few, if any, primaries are necessary for Democratic candidates in Red State Kansas, so Democratic voters have no other way to influence the outcome in a general election when races often are decided at the primary level because the only opposition often occurs within the Republican Party.
Clearly, the logic behind the measure is absent, though both the GOP-dominated House and Senate both passed the bill. State Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, and state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, voted in favor of the measure. State Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, voted against it.
Not everyone is happy with the legislation. Jean Schodorf, a former Republican who is running for Kansas Secretary of State against Kobach, made the following statement after HB 2210’s passage:
“This issue is another example of how the extremist ideology of Gov. Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach is suppressing the rights of Kansans,” Schodorf said. “Kansans support moderate leadership and common sense values. People have the right to pick the party that best represents them. I’ve been meeting people across the state, and we are all tired of being embarrassed on a daily basis with the mess that is going on in Topeka.”
As the state’s chief elections officer, Kobach should be doing what it takes to improve and increase voter turnout, rather than suppressing it. If he would ask voters, most would say they are voting for an individual with values and a point of view that best mirror their own, rather than voting for a party. If the goal is to tighten up standards to drive more people away from the polls, then the mission was accomplished by lawmakers. Now only a select few will get to put their mark on ballots in primary elections, and voters’ real voices will be further diminished.
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