Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2004

Both sides right in Republican primary dispute

June 17, 2004

The Kansas Republican Party is embroiled in one of its frequent intra-party squabbles. This time the issue is whether to invite unaffiliated voters to participate in its Aug. 3 primary.
Kansas Party Chairman Dennis Jones decided June 6 that non-declared, registered voters were welcome to vote in the GOP's primary. The decision that reversed 100 years of tradition came after a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that states couldn't make that decision for their parties.
Jones is of the moderate wings of the party, and it was generally thought the decision would help moderate candidates pitted against conservatives in primary races.
Conservative fractions were certainly quick to object, successfully earning judicial stays.
But conservatives can also be seen as insisting on party purity over party success. The Republican Party faces no threat to its status as the state's majority party. But a quick check of the occupant of the governor's mansion indicates that status doesn't always translate to success. In that and other statewide races, the reason can be attributed to a Democratic candidate successfully portraying his or her unsuccessful GOP as a conservative out of step with the majority of state voters.
On a grander level, it can be hard to argue with any measure that would increase interest and voter turnout among an increasingly unconnected electorate. Nationally, turnout for presidential general elections is near 35 percent. In Kansas, statewide turnout for primaries is near 25 percent. Those are unhealthy numbers that can't sustain a democracy.

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