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Candidate for Governor: We Need Independent Primaries and Ranked Choice Voting

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

KANSAS CITY, KAN. - It has been a historic year for election reform, from ranked choice voting being used for the first time in statewide and non-presidential federal elections in Maine, to game-changing gerrymandering reform measures on the ballot in 4 states.

Independent Kansas gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman says his state is in need of similar systemic reform -- to change a system that serves Republican and Democratic Parties above voters.

"I think all the election laws we have are built to support the Democratic and Republican Parties," Orman said in a September debate hosted by KCPT in Kansas City.

"I'd like to see a primary for independents; I'd like to see ranked choice voting so we can go ahead and allow people to rank their preferences. I'd think it would ultimately lead to more civil discourse as people sought second place votes, and I think it would take away this process where we feel like we to vote for the lesser of two evils."

Orman laid out his ideas for an independent primary in an op-ed published on IVN. He said the current system only serves the parties and their candidates as all the media focus is on them, and the winner of their primaries become the only viable options while third party and independent candidates are treated as spoilers.

"As long as our election process affords the two major parties and their members exclusive access to the primaries, they will continue to have a state-sanctioned, taxpayer-funded, and anti-competitive monopoly over our most sacred right — the right to vote.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting we get rid of political parties or their primaries. What I am suggesting, to my Republican friends especially, is to consider the value of increased electoral competition just like you champion competition in the business world.

What I’m suggesting to my Democratic friends is a democracy that gives everyone the same rights as you and your membership without having to join your party."

And Orman is right about the media. When cable news stations talk about the Kansas gubernatorial race -- which is getting national attention because it is considered a toss-up this year -- they only show pictures of Republican Kris Kobach and Democrat Laura Kelly. Orman is not included in the conversation at all.

Yet Greg Orman is the reason the governor's race is competitive in 2018, and in a three-way race where he has name recognition and support from voters who supported his 2014 campaign for US Senate, stands just as much of a chance at winning the election.

Chances are the winner of the election will not be decided by a majority of voters, which is where the need for an alternative voting system like ranked choice voting enters the equation. Ranked choice voting, as Orman says, allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference, and conducts automatic rounds of runoff until a candidate has majority support.

Orman says fixing Kansas' electoral system to make it more accountable to the people of Kansas will be a top priority for his administration, and was part of the first detailed policy proposal he released in July.

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