Witt: Will Kentucky ever be fair for independents?

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, July 30, 2019

This column has commented before (perhaps too frequently) on the issue of independent voter rights in relation to primary elections.

Over the last couple of years, several states have initiated steps to make their primary elections more open and fair, including Florida and Pennsylvania.

Not Kentucky.

Email newsletter signup

Kentucky is one of only 14 states which still close primary elections to independent, i.e. non-affiliated voters.

It is estimated that as much as 40 percent of registered voters in the United States consider themselves non-affiliated.

In Kentucky the number of such voters is estimated to be 290,000.

That’s 290,000 voters — who lean both conservatively and progressively — that neither the Republican nor Democratic parties are attempting to woo.

But why are so many voters refusing to affiliate with either of the two major parties?

It is most likely because they see those two parties as nothing more than special interests which are solely focused on fostering their narrow agenda of staying in office.

The two parties are the two largest special interests in the country.

And the major players in each of these parties apparently see no advantage in opening the primary elections to a large population whose loyalty — to the party that is — might be in question.

However, this large cadre of independent voters is suffering from taxation without representation, more surely than all the specious claims of such action that have echoed through recent history.

Why? Because their state taxes support the primary elections as much as the taxes of Republicans and Democrats, yet they cannot participate.

In September 2017, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and the head of the Kentucky Board of Elections each received letters requesting their support for open primary elections in Kentucky.

Grimes — somewhat as a specious argument — suggested she could not do so because it would mean violating her oath of office. No response was received from the Board of Elections.

Shortly after the 2019 primary elections here, a similar letter was sent to Democrat candidate for Secretary of State Heather Henry suggesting she — should she be elected to the office in November — at least use the influence of the office to proselytize for open primaries.

No response has been received from either her or her office. Whether the Republican candidate for the office would be more forthcoming is doubtful.

What seems obvious is  neither of the major parties in Kentucky has any interest in opening the primary elections here. In that, they are both missing out on appealing to the interests of a huge segment of voters, a segment which is growing every year.

Recent information suggests the number of non-affiliated voters is growing at a faster rate than that of either of those two parties.

Will the day come when Kentucky is the last holdout with closed primaries, while every other state has moved to make their voting more fair and equitable?

It seems Kentucky is often dragged, kicking and screaming, into the current century when it comes to political and social issues.

Will Kentuckians have to wait for the 22nd Century for this change?

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.