Independent voters crossing over to vote in the hotly contested Republican primary could emerge as one of the big stories of today’s election.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale said his staff has had to make several trips to polling places to replenish supplies of “affiliation cards,” which unaffiliated voters have to fill out if they want to vote in the Republican primary.
Early today, the campaigns of candidates Jean Schodorf, Wink Hartman and Jim Anderson all complained that they had voters turned away from polling places when they tried to switch their registration from independent to Republican to vote.
Gale said he contacted officials at two polling places to re-explain the rules governing that process.
The rules are set by the political parties whose nominees for the general election are being selected today.
Unaffiliated voters can cast a Republican ballot if they fill out an affiliation card at the polling place before voting.
In essence, they are joining the GOP on the spot.
Gale said he was surprised by the high demand for affiliation cards, as he had supplied 100 to each of his smaller polling sites and 200 to the larger ones.
It is highly likely that most of the affiliation cards filled out today are to switch from unaffiliated to Republican.
Unaffiliated voters are allowed to vote a Democratic ballot without changing their independent status or filling out a card.
Gale said out of the approximately 6,600 ballots cast at advance voting sites before the election, about 360 had been unaffiliated voters who declared party afilliation for this election.
He said that was about three times as many as in previous primaries.
Most of the newly affiliated became Republicans, although a few voters did declare as Democrats.
The GOP ballot has the two most hotly contested races: – a showdown between Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt for a U.S. Senate seat. – the 4th District primary to replace Tiahrt in Congress. That race features Hartman, Schodorf, Anderson, Mike Pompeo and Paij Rutschman.