The deadline to switch political parties before the Aug. 5 primary is fast approaching, Secretary of State Kris Kobach reminded voters in a statement Tuesday.
Voters who are already registered Republican or Democrat will not be able to switch parties or switch to unaffiliated between July 1 and the primary election.
Unaffiliated voters will still be able to switch to a political party during July and must switch by Aug. 5 if they wish to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary.
In the past, voters affiliated with a party had until July 15 to switch.
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A new law will restrict voters from switching between the June 1 candidate filing deadline and the primary vote in future elections. Because the law does not go into effect until July 1, when the Kansas statute book is published, voters have the rest of this month to switch parties.
Republican supporters say HB 2210 will help protect the integrity of elections.
Kelly Arnold, chair of the Kansas Republican Party, said that in past elections, organizations such as the Kansas National Education Association have encouraged their members to switch from the Democratic Party to vote in Republican primaries.
“It goes back to Republican Party primaries are for Republicans to decide who their nominee is going to be. And third-party organizations, those that are not members of the Republican Party, should not meddle in our elections,” Arnold said in a phone call. “We welcome anybody who wants to be part of the Republican Party … and to actually be a part, but not to jump into our party purely to meddle with our elections.”
Mark Desetti, legislative director for the KNEA, the state’s largest teachers union, said the organization has not meddled in any elections but has told members that if they are living in a district where the election will be decided in the primary, they should switch parties if necessary to ensure their voices are heard.
“If you want to have a voice in who represents you, you need to vote in the primary. And that might mean changing parties,” Desetti said.
He said Republicans had exaggerated the threat of party switching.
“There was all this stuff they did about, ‘Oh my God, they’re messing with the system.’ I mean, gee willikers, if we were using that as a political strategy, and if it was good, we’d win something once in a while,” Desetti said. “The bottom line is we’re not swaying any elections with party switching. That’s just absurd.”
Arnold acknowledged that this year the new law is unlikely to have much impact. The candidate list was finalized on June 2 and voters have the rest of the month to switch.
But this gave county election officers more time to familiarize voters with the rule change, he said.
“Yes, we would’ve preferred it to have taken effect June 1, but we accept the way the Legislature passed it,” Arnold said.
Affiliated voters will be able to switch parties again starting Sept. 1, after the August primary.