Views from Kansas: Kudos to Dems on voting changes
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
Democrats in deep-red Kansas face lofty challenges at the polls but remain determined to make inroads.
They were re-energized by the recent elections of Gov. Laura Kelly and Congresswoman Sharice Davids, among other victories. And now, with an important presidential primary ahead, the Democratic Party in Kansas intends to take a solid step forward in encouraging more like-minded voters to participate.
On May 2, 2020, the party will use ranked-choice voting in Kansas as a way to make it easier to vote, and in turn increase Democratic voter turnout.
The move also is certain to motivate more party members who’ve felt left out in the past.
Ranked-choice voting lets voters rank candidates in order of preference when they fill in their ballots. The number of choices is determined by the overall number of candidates.
Voters will be asked to rank the entire list of Democratic presidential candidates. From there, candidates with totals at the bottom will be eliminated, and the list will be culled until all remaining candidates are above the 15% vote threshold needed to win delegates.
Democrats also will allow same-day registration for 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the general election in November. That’s a good way to encourage voter participation in the future, as people who cast their first ballots early in life tend to be lifelong voters.
Kansans who register at the Democratic primary also will receive a federal voter registration form that doesn’t include the onerous proof of citizenship required to complete a state registration form — a politically motivated requirement that only serves as a barrier to voting.
Our democracy is best served with engagement from as many citizens as possible.
Another notable improvement in the 2020 Democratic Party plan: The primary will take place on a Saturday at voting centers statewide. That’s a surefire way to encourage voters to go to the polls on what’s a day off from work for many.
The shift to ranked-choice voting also serves as a timely change with more than 20 Democratic candidates now seeking support. In a race that’s already a full-out brawl, there’s otherwise no guarantee of one Democratic hopeful rising to the top and becoming the clear choice for voters.
While crowded fields of candidates always are welcome, they also can produce winners with low percentages of the vote. Ranked-choice voting enables greater voter choice while lessening the likelihood of wasted votes.
Kansans now must wait until May to see how the new approach goes, and who rises to the top when votes are cast. Also to be determined is whether excitement over ranked-choice voting does indeed draw more people to the polls.
For now, one thing’s certain: the 2020 Kansas Democratic presidential primary is sizing up to be more interesting, engaging and meaningful for voters than in previous years.
— Originally published in The Topeka Capital-Journal