In early 2019 we witnessed historic and necessary changes in political affiliation. Kansas state Sens. Barbara Bollier and Dinah Sykes, as well as state Rep. Stephanie Clayton and former state Rep. Joy Koesten all made an honest evaluation of how their personal values align with their political affiliation. Then, through the simple process of changing their party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, these dedicated public servants demonstrated a kind of political courage that has become remarkable simply because of its scarcity.

Many political insiders in Johnson County could sense these changes were coming. It’s been a common topic at coffee shops, play dates, and backyard barbecues as well. And, with more than half of all voters in Johnson County registered as Republicans, we know many more are reckoning with this simple question, “What does it matter if I’m registered as a Republican or Democrat so long as I vote for the candidate that best represents my values?”

The short answer to this question is it matters a great a deal. The long answer is it matters for three main reasons:

Candidate Recruitment

We hear from voters all the time that they wish there were better candidates running for office. Well, when voters don’t register with the party that best aligns with their individual values they are allowing a smaller group of voters to recruit and select candidates for the general election.

Allocation of state and national resources

A key metric for any political party is the number of registered voters who affiliate with the party at the local, state, and federal levels. Whether it’s the GOP, the DNC, or any of the major political groups throughout the United States, they all allocate resources (money and people) based on how many voters are affiliated with one party or another, because this is a rock solid indicator of a candidate’s elect-ability.

Encourage competitive primaries

This is a simple rule of thumb for politics, candidates will run for office if they believe they can win. And when voters affiliate with a political party that aligns with their priorities they are encouraging new or more candidates to run for office; because their votes in primary elections offer a path to victory.

Likewise, if you find your personal beliefs and your current political affiliation are out of sync, then we encourage you to follow the example set by state Sens. Bollier and Sykes, and state Rep. Clayton and former state Rep. Koesten in changing your party affiliation to better reflect your values.