Mobile Navigation
Elections »

Elections » Primary Elections

The primary election for national, state and county offices occurs on the first Tuesday in August approximately three months before the general election. The purpose of the primary is to determine which candidate will represent each party in the general election. Political parties are allowed only one candidate per office in the general election. Voters may participate in only one primary (Democratic or Republican) but all voters are eligible to vote on special questions in their jurisdiction, regardless of affiliation.

Only two political parties in Kansas are currently eligible to conduct a primary election. A party must have a candidate that receives at least 5 percent of the total votes for governor in a general election before it can hold a primary election two years later. The only parties in Kansas to have achieved this designation are the major parties: Republican and Democratic. Minor parties nominate candidates for office at state party conventions or caucuses, and their names appear directly on the general election ballot. Independent candidates must file by petition and do not participate in the primary election.

Primary Participation

Each political party determines who is eligible to participate in its own primary. Historically in Kansas, individuals could only vote in the primary election if they were affiliated with a party participating in the election. A 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case determined that states are not allowed to decide who should vote in primary elections. Since this ruling, each political party has determined who is eligible to vote in its primary election.

Currently, the Republican Party allows only individuals registered with the Republican Party to vote in its primary election. The Democratic Party allows individuals registered with the Democratic Party and persons who are not affiliated with a political party to participate in its primary election.

On primary election day, unaffiliated voters have the opportunity to affiliate with either party and vote in that party's primary. This is an exception to the registration deadline for voting in an election. Individuals affiliated with a minor party may only vote if there is a special question in their jurisdiction, and do not have the opportunity to change their affiliation to vote for major parties.

Winners and Losers

Winners of the primary election are certified after the final canvass is completed by the State Board of Canvassers. These candidates are then placed on the general ballot along with third party nominations and any independent candidates that successfully filed a petition.

Individuals who lose the election may choose to initiate a write-in campaign and attempt to win the office without having their name formally placed on the ballot. This was seen in 2010, when commissioner of insurance candidate David J. Powell (Rep.) lost the primary election to Sandy Praeger (Rep.), but he still received 2,570 write-in votes in the general election.