The 2016 Kansas caucuses demonstrated the tremendous interest in the presidential nominating contests in the state, with an unexpected 73,000 Republicans and 40,000 Democrats participating. In the end, big winners Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders each could credit Kansas with giving his candidacy a well-timed boost.
But the parties shouldn’t feel too proud of themselves. Both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, at least in the Wichita area, proved to be chaotic.
Lines wrapped around Century II and required some Republican voters to wait for hours. And that was after they’d won the traffic and parking battles, as other events also were going on at the convention center. Who knows how many others were dissuaded from voting by the hassle. Granted, the Saturday appearances by Donald Trump and Cruz fueled the craziness.
But as one frustrated Republican said in an e-mail to The Eagle editorial board: “My vote counts? Then why can’t they hold the caucus at a venue that has adequate parking?”
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The Democrats at least had the foresight to book multiple sites in the area. But they had their own long lines and confusion, even moving some caucusing outdoors to accommodate the turnout on what happened to be a nice day.
The chances may seem slim of a repeat of the 2016 Kansas caucuses’ unlikely circumstances – multiple GOP candidates still scrapping over delegates and the party’s very identity after Super Tuesday, and a surprisingly competitive Democratic duel between the assumed nominee and a left-wing insurgent.
But the state and local Republican and Democratic parties either need to learn from Saturday’s mistakes and resolve to do better next time, or the Legislature should recognize the value in scheduling and funding a proper presidential primary.