N. KY Democrat Files Bill to Allow Independents to Vote in the Primary of Their Choice

A northern Kentucky Democrat has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that could change the shape of primary elections in Kentucky if passed.

The bill was pre-filed this week by Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, and it would allow a registered independent the ability to vote in the primary of one political party.

Kentucky is one of nine states that holds “closed primary elections,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In a closed primary voters must be registered party members to vote in a primary election. The system is meant to deter “cross-over” voting by members of other parties. Wheatley’s bill would call for independent voters to register as independent.

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Mike Adams, R-Kentucky, said the idea needs bipartisan support in the legislature.

“As Secretary Adams has shown any serious attempt to reform the election system needs to be done in a bipartisan way, ” Communications Director Michon Lindstrom told KFP. “We encourage Representative Wheatley to find bipartisan support for this idea.”

The states who hold closed primary elections include Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

The change in election law Wheatley proposes would be a step away from full open primaries. By opening the primary to registered independents or unaffiliated voters it would prevent those crossover voters where Democrats can vote in Republican primaries and vice versa. There are also nine states who offer this version of primary voting, they include Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

In closed primary elections, like Kentucky currently holds, independent voters can only vote in nonpartisan primary elections.