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Kansas Legislators Propose Constitutional Vote That Would Disenfranchise Voters

Created: 14 January, 2021
Updated: 15 August, 2022
2 min read

Editor's note: This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Wichita Eagle, and has been republished on IVN with permission from the author.

On Friday, the Kansas Legislature will vote to amend the Kansas Constitution. A constitutional amendment must be approved by 2/3 of Kansas state legislators and then put before “the electors,” meaning Kansas voters. Advocates of this amendment are planning to put it on the 2022 primary ballot.

Independents comprise 29% of the Kansas electorate and cannot vote in even-year Kansas primaries, despite the fact that primaries are taxpayer-funded to benefit private political organizations (the parties). Even if a way is devised to allow unaffiliated voters to vote solely on this amendment in that primary, such an option cannot be sufficiently communicated to independent voters who are not even generally aware they can vote in odd-year nonpartisan primaries.

Regardless of content, something so consequential as to require a constitutional amendment should be put before all Kansas voters. It is unconscionable to disenfranchise almost 1/3 of Kansas voters on something so significant just because those voters have not joined private political organizations.

We have articulated our specific concerns in a Twitter thread and they are:

1. Unaffiliated voters, in general, are not aware that they can vote in a partisan primary if there's an amendment or similar ballot line.
2. Increasing awareness among unaffiliated voters is an essentially insurmountable task since the primaries are labeled as "Republican" and "Democratic." Turnout among independents for such a race is likely to be disproportionately low leading to results that don't reflect the view of the electorate as a whole.
3. No state legislator has proposed a plan for increasing awareness among independents and, given the nature of partisan primaries, the faithful of both parties are the ones who will be targeted with advertising. Many primary campaigns only reach out to voters in their party.
4. With only one line on their ballots, there is far less incentive for independents to turn out than there is for partisan voters. This lack of incentive is another reason results obtained in a primary election are unlikely to represent the Kansas electorate as a whole.

We ask that the Kansas Legislature place constitutional amendments on general election ballots so that all Kansas voters, regardless of political affiliation, can fulfill their right and responsibility as citizens to participate in our representative democracy.