Time for a little change after elections

By Chuck Witt

Sun columnist

Now that the elections are over — and none too soon judging by the comments of many voters — perhaps it is time for some changes to be made in the state that will benefit the voters overall, changes which would seem to provide a more constitutionally neutral playing field for voters and candidates alike.

Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes is to be applauded for her successful efforts to institute online voter registration. In these days of technology, it is ludicrous not to take advantage of that technology if it will enhance the participation of the public in the affairs of government.

Now, there are a couple of items which the Secretary should begin to work to change.

The first is an archaic (undoubtedly contrived by a cabal of the two major political parties) statute, which states that county clerks are obliged to select election officers only from those who are registered as either Republican or Democrat, modified only by KRS117.045(5) which allows the clerk to select workers NOT affiliated with the two (2) political parties only in the case of emergency (apparently if no one can be found within those parties), but anyone selected must be a qualified voter of the county.

What difference does it make if an election officer is either a Republican or Democrat? Isn’t it entirely possible that an independent can be sufficiently honest and trustworthy to serve as an election officer?

And, further, why should an election officer have to be a qualified voter? Just because someone may have been insufficiently motivated to have voted recently enough to avoid being purged from the voter list doesn’t equate to an inability to accurately check the identities of those coming to vote or to help with instructions to voters or to handle the signing-in process.

For some unfathomable reason, this statute has been finely tailored to keep certain people from serving their community, and volunteering to serve as an election officer should certainly be seen as a community service since the pay is obviously not an incentive.

Since every precinct has more than one election officer working at a time, there is virtually no likelihood of any cheating going on by someone who is not either a Democrat, Republican or qualified voter.

Second, the Secretary should begin work to allow those who are not registered as affiliated with either of the two major political parties to vote in primaries.

Currently, 21 states have open primaries, allowing non-party affiliated qualified voters to choose which party they wish to cast votes in, and two states have open primaries for elections other than presidential primaries.

Of course, the two major political parties constantly argue against open primaries, but such primaries have been ruled constitutional on many occasions. The major parties contend that allowing those not registered with their party will dilute their own voting process and allow “outsiders” to select their candidates. The “dilution” argument has been ruled unconvincing by the courts.

Independents are not, automatically, irrational individuals who would choose to vote within a particular party simply for the sake of being a spoiler. They consider their vote as important as that of anyone else.

Of course if an Independent really wants to vote in a primary, he or she has only to get to the clerk’s office during the voter registration period and change his or her registration to that of the party for which they wish to vote.

After the primary, those individuals can return to the clerk’s office and change their registration back to independent.

But that makes unnecessary work for the clerk, unnecessary trips to the court house and unreasonable effort on the part of the voter.

It’s time for some changes.