Topeka The ranks of Republican and unaffiliated voters are growing in Kansas, while the number of registered Democrats has fallen dramatically since 2008, according to the secretary of state's office.
Republicans hold all statewide elected offices, both U.S. Senate seats and all four U.S. House seats, as well as majorities of both houses of the Kansas Legislature.
There are now 439,639 Democrats registered in the state, a drop of more than 45,000 since the 2008 election. Democrats make up just over 25 percent of the state's registered voters.
State Democratic Party leaders recognize the predicament they face in drawing supporters and getting their candidates elected.
"It's troubling to see we are losing Democrats," said Joan Wagnon, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party. "As far as I'm concerned, the bottom line is who votes Democratic in November."
Republican registrations increased by over 11,000 to 782,161 people — that's nearly 45 percent of the state's voter totals. Unaffiliated registrations reached 508,204, an increase of more than 25,000 since 2008. Unaffiliated voters now make up 29 percent of the state's voters. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/PO5BY9 ) that Libertarian registrations also increased by more than 1,000 people to 10,828 members.
Amanda Adkins, chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party, said the move to increase GOP registration figures has been building for the past four years.
"We never stopped growing and improving the data-driven, grassroots campaign system," Adkins said.
Wagnon said the Republican numbers were skewed by the fact that 6,000 Democrats switched party affiliation to vote in the August GOP primary. She said some of those residents switched allegiance so they could vote in Kansas Senate races between moderate incumbents and conservative challengers.
The Kansas Republican Party requires primary voters to register with the party to participate in the election, while Democrats allow people registered with other parties or unaffiliated to vote in the primary without changing party affiliation.
"That is a huge problem for us," Wagnon said, "with the open versus closed primary."
Democrats are expected to discuss changing the primary requirements during a meeting in February, opting either to keep the present system or switch to the GOP approach.
Wagnon said the growth in unaffiliated voters might indicate that younger Kansas residents prefer to avoid political labels. Barker said he hadn't looked at the issue nor considered the reasons for a rise in unaffiliated registrations.