Independent voters are 'treated like second class citizens' in Ky., says activist

04/04/2011 06:50 PM

Kentucky’s election process should be reformed to include independent voters, through representation on the board of elections to allowing them to have a say in primary contests, one activist said.

Michael P.W. Lewis, chairman of Independent Kentucky, said on Monday’s_ Pure Politics_ that he’s seeking to drum up more popular support for a state bill to open Democratic and Republicans primaries to independents. The legislation has been sponsored the last two years by state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon.

Lewis said independents should be able to choose to vote in a party’s primary. Currently, Kentucky’s closed election process allows third-party voters and registered independents only to vote in non-partisan primary races, such as for judges and some local offices.

“These are taxpayer-funded primaries,” Lewis said. “So you’re telling an independent who pays their taxes that they can’t associate with it, yet their footing the bill for these primaries.”

Lewis made a splash last year when tried to talk about the open primary bill with former governor and current Democratic Sen. Julian Carroll as CNN cameras rolled.

An agitated Carroll walked away from Lewis, saying he didn’t “want to be a part” of an effort to destroy the two party system.

The group, Independent Kentucky, has been focused mostly on bolstering the voting power of registered independents — not on candidate recruitment.

But Lewis said ballot access for independents is an issue too. For instance, he tried to run last fall in the 35th state House race in Louisville. But Democrats challenged the signatures on his petition and succeeded in having him disqualified. A candidate needs 100 signatures of constituents from that district, and of the 164 Lewis submitted, the Democratic plaintiff argued only 99 were valid.

Lewis said Independent Kentucky is considering pushing for a legislator — perhaps the lone independent, Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah — to sponsor a bill that would allow independents to choose between either paying a higher filing fee or submitting the petition with signatures.

Lewis said Independent Kentucky’s board voted not to endorse any candidates, including the gubernatorial slate of Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley.

- Ryan Alessi

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