Topeka If you want to change your party registration before the August primary, you have until July 1 to do it.
In 2016, all registration changes will have to be made before the candidate filing deadline, which is typically June 1.
Douglas County's chief election official Jamie Shew on Wednesday sought to clarify the rules for voters in light of a law passed by the Legislature this spring that shortens the time period when voters can switch parties.
The law prohibits a person from changing his or her party affiliation from the date of the candidate filing deadline through the date when the primary election results are certified by the Secretary of State, which is usually shortly before Sept. 1.
But this year, the rules are more complicated because even though the law prohibits changing parties after June 1, the law doesn't take effect until July 1.
"Between now and the end of June we are in the old rules, and then starting July 1, we will go into the new rules," Shew said.
Applications to change registration postmarked June 30 will be accepted and electronic submissions by fax, email or online will be accepted if submitted before midnight June 30, Shew said.
The new law was supported by Kansas Republican Party officials who said that Democrats were changing party affiliation before primaries to affect their outcome.
"The primary election belongs to the political party, not to the general public," said State GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold. "It is the mechanism whereby the party selects its candidates," he said.
"The practice known generally as party raiding, party hopping, party switching, tactical voting, strategic voting, sophisticated voting or insincere voting — is reprehensible conduct akin to fraudulent misrepresentation," he said.
Arnold pointed to an email from the Kansas National Education Association in 2012 that urged Democrats in two state senate districts to switch their registration to Republican to vote in the GOP primary for candidates that the KNEA said were supporters of public schools.
"The winner of those primaries will undoubtedly be the winner in November, and if you’re not a registered Republican, you don’t get to help make that decision," the email said. Both of the candidates that were supported by the KNEA lost.
Democrats said the incidence of changing party affiliation was not widespread, and even if it were, they said voters should be allowed to size up the primary fields after the candidate filing deadline and determine which primary they wanted to participate in. In some areas of Kansas, the winner of the Kansas GOP primary is the outright winner.
Shew said the additional regulation, plus the different deadlines for the next election cycle, will result in more voter confusion.
"We just keep adding complexity to these rules. If you do this you have certain rights, but if you miss the deadlines, we keep adding bureaucratic rules that kind of catch people," he said.
But the Kansas Republican Party's executive director Clayton Barker disagreed. "I doubt it causes any voter confusion because most party hoppers do so only at the direction of political groups, and those groups understand the dates," Barker said.