- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Senate committee on Thursday recommended passage of a bill sought by the Kansas Republican Party that would make it more difficult for voters to switch parties before voting in primary elections.

The Ethics and Election Committee advanced the bill to the full Senate on voice vote. The action came a day after supporters testified and encouraged the committee to take such steps.

The bill would prohibit changing party affiliation from June 1 through Sept. 1. Voters can currently change their party affiliation up to 21 days before the August primaries. Unaffiliated voters can pick a party at any time.

Clay Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party, said primary elections belong to political parties - not the general public. He said he believes Democrats are being urged to switch parties to vote for a GOP candidate who would have a more difficult time winning a general election, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/P3WALI).

Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, who supported the bill in the Kansas House, told members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee that he has only anecdotal evidence from Facebook postings that people are being urged to switch parties.

“We don’t have any specific data,” Esau said.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also supports the bill, saying it would reduce the workload of county election officers.

State Sen. Kay Wolf, a Republican from Prairie Village, said she had not heard of any widespread voter switching. And the Mainstream Coalition, a nonpartisan advocacy group that supports separation of church and state and increased funding of public schools, said the measure would restrict Kansas residents from voting for the party of their choice.

Coalition member Mark Dugan, said many people want to vote for the best candidate, regardless of political party.

“For these conscientious voters, any restriction on the ability to choose party affiliation is a restriction on the ability to choose their leaders,” he said.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat and vice chairwoman of the committee, voted against recommending the bill Thursday, calling it another attempt to suppress voter rights by restricting choices of which party to affiliate with and when.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com