Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Democrats Alter Format for Primary

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Democrats Alter Format for Primary

Article excerpt

Kansas Democratic leaders have abandoned the traditional caucus approach for the 2020 presidential primary in hopes of generating more participation.

With a multitude of Democratic candidates competing for the nomination and a chance to take on Republican President Donald Trump, the Kansas Democratic Party is adopting a ranked choice voting system.

Instead of gathering in crowded gyms, forming clusters that align with candidates and yawping their support, registered Democrats will be asked to fill out a paper ballot next year upon which they order candidates by preference. If the first-choice candidate fails to gain 15 percent of the total vote, a ballot defaults to the second choice, and so on.

Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman Vicki Hiatt and executive director Ethan Corson are banking on trading spectacle for inclusiveness. The two spoke about the change for an episode of Capitol Insider, the podcast of The Topeka Capital-Journal that examines state politics.

“Although there is something magical about this idea of a caucus where neighbors are coming together and talking about which candidates they support,” Corson said, “in practice, we felt like as a party who one of our core values is increasing participation in our democracy, we needed to have a practice that was more reflective of those core values.”

The ranked choice process is meant to mirror what would happen at an in-person caucus, Corson said.

The party plans to mail every registered Democrat in March to explain the new system, which includes advanced balloting and same-day registration.

Voting centers in each of the 40 state Senate districts will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 2, a Saturday, for in-person voting. The centers will allow for same-day registration and changes in party affiliation.

Hiatt said the party saw less than 10 percent turnout in 2016, when Kansas Democrats overwhelmingly chose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. …

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