Republican primary candidates dispute unaffiliated voters

Capitol Bureau

Before the canvassing process started Monday, the Secretary of State’s office and the governor’s office weighed in on how counties should count unaffiliated ballots.

In a letter, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker said, “If an unaffiliated voter does not complete a party affiliation document, that voter is not entitled to vote at a party primary election.”

Kansas doesn’t have open primaries, so in order to vote, you have to be affiliated with a party. 

However, if you’re an unaffiliated voter, you can still vote on election day, but you have to fill out and sign a form declaring a party at the polls.

“The idea behind all of those Kansas laws is to allow people who haven’t declared a party to declare a party and vote on election day and not allow people to just switch parties for the purpose of manipulating the primary election,” explained Jeffrey Jackson, a law professor at Washburn University. 

Governor Colyer’s campaign has expressed concerns over unaffiliated voters being given provisional ballots instead of regular ballots on election night. 

In a statement, Brant Laue, Colyer’s chief legal counsel said all provisional ballots given to unaffiliated voters should be counted. 

“Kansas law requires provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters in a primary election be construed as evidence of voter intent and must be counted,” said Laue. 

In Johnson County, thousands of provisional ballots are expected to be counted in the tight race. Of those ballots, 57 are from unaffiliated voters who were incorrectly given provisional ballots on election night. However, 35 unaffiliated ballots won’t be counted because they didn’t include a completed party affiliation form. 

“The Kansas Constitution favors voter enfranchisement allowing them to vote rather than not allowing them to vote if you can determine what their intent was,” explained Jackson. 

“Obviously if you cast a provisional ballot in a Republican primary, your intent was to declare that you are a Republican primary voter.”

Bryan Caskey, the director of elections, said the decision to count or not count a ballot is up to the canvassing boards.

Forty six counties still have provisional ballot to count. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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