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Independents should have voice in primaries

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By Jeff Moore

 

 As we prepare for a year of electing our county officials, my feelings of being left out of the electoral process have started to surface, again.

Carroll County’s elections for county officials will likely be decided this May when the primary is held, being that there are no Republicans running for office.

But when I moved to Kentucky more than six years ago, I learned that folks like me who are independent from political parties are not allowed to vote in the primaries.

I learned to think independently about politics growing up in a household where one side of the family was Democrat and the other side was Republican.

I never really gave this much thought as I registered to vote when I turned 18. Virginia, where I lived before coming to Kentucky, does not have party registration.

And through the years, I voted for candidates in each of the two major parties, along with many others from third parties who brought forward new ideas that I believe had merit.

And when there were primaries, I always had the chance to participate. Through the years, I have voted in primaries for both Democrats and Republicans. Virginia gives you the option of voting in only one, and I would choose the one based on my research and knowledge of the candidate I wanted to support.

I believe I’ve always had great insight into the candidates seeking their party’s nomination or elected office. As a reporter who covered the political beat, I also had opportunities to interview candidates from all parties and cover their conventions and primaries. In covering local government, I also got to see both their accomplishments and their failures. I believe this strengthened my independence from having an alliance with any of the political parties.

When I moved to Kentucky, I got my first taste of a state that requires party registration. When I filled out the voter registration card, I saw the section on selecting your political party. And of course, I listed myself as independent.

In my first round of county elections here in 2006, I learned that I would be sitting on the sidelines during the primaries. And that’s tough in a county where all of the candidates are on the Democratic ticket.

I’ve had many folks tell me just to register as a Democrat so that I can vote in the primary and take part in the selection of our county leaders. Apparently there are many local residents who do this.

But that is not something I can do. It goes against the values and principles that I hold dear.

I don’t believe that I should be forced into registering with a political party to vote in primaries that are funded through our tax dollars, and it appears that our state lawmakers are hearing this from many Kentuckians. Sen. Ernie Harris wrote last week of Senate Bill 53 that would open the primaries to independents.

“No one should be shut out of the political process ... There is no reason that a person should be forced to register with a party whose philosophy they do not concur with just to be allowed to participate in the political process,” Harris wrote in his weekly legislative column.

The bill would require that independents be registered as such on Dec. 31 preceding the primary. This is the same date that people are required to make changes in their party registration as Democrats or Republicans to vote in upcoming primaries.

Senate Bill 53 has won approval in the state Senate and now goes to the House. I hope our state representatives will also join in supporting this legislation to open the political process to everyone.

I look forward to the days of again helping select the best candidates, no matter what their party.

 

Jeff Moore is publisher of The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner and resides in Carrollton.