Deadline to register to vote in primary is July 19

Kansans have a little over a week left to register to vote in the primary on Aug. 3.

If this year is like previous elections, there will be a last-minute rush to register before the July 19 deadline, said Marilyn Chapman-Hansen, the Sedgwick County election commissioner from 1981 to 2003.

Many people tend to put off filling out the application until Election Day is a few weeks away, she said, which makes last-minute voter drives effective.

On July 17, people can stop by one of six MobilComm or Cricket Wireless stores around Wichita to register to vote. The stores will have computers for online registration and will have volunteers, including some who speak Spanish, to help people through the process.

Since July 2008, the last statewide primary, about 42,000 new voters have registered in Kansas.

As of July 1, there were 739,547 registered Republicans in the state, 462,159 registered Democrats and 488,764 voters who are not affiliated with any party. While the number of Republican voters declined by about 10,000 since 2008, the number of registered independents grew by more than 42,000.

The Republican Party is expected to pick up more members in the coming weeks because of its high-profile races such as the U.S. Senate primary between Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt, and the 4th Congressional District race, which includes Wink Hartman and Mike Pompeo.

High-profile races tend to draw more voters to a party, said Mel Kahn, a political science professor at Wichita State University.

Voters "want to go where it counts," Kahn said, and the perception that Republican primary winners will win in the general election makes many voters think their best chance to make an impact with their vote is in the primaries.

"There are a lot more Democrats who will shift over to vote in the Republican primary than vice versa," he said.

Each party sets its own rules for who can participate in its primary, but voters have to chose whether they want to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary.

Unaffiliated voters can vote in the Democratic primary without joining the party.

But the Republican party requires its voters to be registered as Republicans. Democrats who wish to vote in the Republican primary must re-register by July 19. Registered voters who are not affiliated with a party can join the Republican Party at polling places on Election Day.

Unaffilliated voters requesting an advance mail ballot who want to participate in the Republican primary will be sent a provisional ballot along with a party registration application. The application must be returned with the ballot for the vote to be counted.

To register to vote, a person must be a Kansas resident, a United States citizen and 18 or older on or before the day of the primary. People who have recently moved to Sedgwick County or have never voted in the county will need to register, and people who have recently moved within the county, changed their names or wish to change their political affiliation will need to re-register.

Registration can be done online through the Kansas Department of Revenue.

Paper applications can be obtained from county election offices, Dillons stores, Kwik Shops and QuikTrips. They can also be printed from the Kansas Secretary of State's website. Paper applications must be returned to the county election office, 510 N. Main St. in Wichita.