Archive for Thursday, December 21, 2006

Recent event shows voting’s importance

December 21, 2006

Those voters who think Kansas' primary elections are a bother should look to Johnson County for an important lesson.

In August, fewer than 40,000 Republicans from the state's largest county went to the polls to help select their party's nominee for governor, 3rd District U.S. Congressman and other contested races.

Sure, the primary races didn't create a lot of enthusiasm among voters, whether in Johnson County, Leavenworth County or most anywhere else in Kansas. Turnout in Johnson County among all registered voters - Republicans and Democrats - was a paltry 15.3 percent. Statewide it wasn't much better, with only 18.15 percent turnout for the primary.

But there were other, less glamorous, considerations for voters to make at the polls that day. In each precinct throughout Johnson County, as in every county in the state, Republican voters were asked to elect two representatives to the county's Republican Central Committee; the same was asked of Democrats for their party's central committee.

These committeemen and committeewomen are the backbone of the party apparatus, performing such tasks as helping to get out the vote and weighing in on the county level on the party's local, state and national platforms.

The committee's work rarely comes under the spotlight - that is, unless there is a vacancy in elective office to be filled in between elections.

Such was the case last week in Johnson County.

Members of the Johnson County Republican Central Committee were charged with selecting a new district attorney. The current one - Paul Morrison - is leaving office two years before his term expires to become the state's attorney general. Morrison was elected DA as a Republican, but he switched parties to run as a Democrat for the attorney general post.

Because the DA's office had been won by a Republican, it fell to the 500-plus members of the Johnson County Republican Central Committee to select the county's next district attorney. Thus, those 500 people, who had been elected by fewer than 40,000 of the county's registered Republicans, were selecting one of the most high-profile elected officials in the county.

In a twist unheard of in recent Kansas politics, the committee members elected Phill Kline to replace Morrison. Kline is the man Morrison ousted from the attorney general's post.

The selection of Kline has sparked an outcry by many Johnson County Republicans. Though the county is heavily Republican, voters there overwhelmingly sided with Morrison in the attorney general's race. The committee's choice of Kline, many reasoned, was a slap in the face to those who voted against him.

Such reasoning, no matter one's proclivity toward or against Kline and his politics, is bogus.

Any wrath should be aimed at voters who didn't care enough to take part in the August primary.

The old saw "if you don't vote, don't complain" is true - even for offices that don't seem on the surface to really matter.

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