Why Kansas Democrats should still vote in the state’s groundbreaking ranked-choice primary—even after Bernie dropped out

Today, Bernie Sanders announced that he was bowing out of the 2020 Democratic primary.

This leaves former vice president Joe Biden as the party’s presumptive nominee.

As it happens, this week is also when the Kansas Democratic Party is mailing out ballots for the party’s primary on May 2.

And the party is still hoping voters turn them in—because the party is trying something new this year, and having voters cast ballots is important for a party looking to show proof of concept.

In this year’s primary, Kansas Democrats are deploying the most progressive election system in the country.

Under the leadership of Kansas Democratic Party chair Vicki Hiatt, Kansas moved away from the in-person caucus system it had used since 1992 to a ranked-choice ballot with vote-by-mail and same-day registration for in-person voters.

The Kansas system is now the envy of other state parties following the topsy-turvy 2020 primary—most especially Iowa.

Kansas’ system is the “trifecta” of innovative electioneering according to Paul Gronke, professor of political science at Reed College in Oregon and head of a non-partisan institute that studies early voting and election reform.

“This is Patrick Mahomes throwing a touchdown and then you go for it,” Gronke says. “It was a brilliant innovation by the party. The only reason they’re not going to be seen as innovators is that the race settled so quickly.”

Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt still wants to see the system in action after watching the debacle that was the Iowa caucuses and listening to complaints about the way things broke for various candidates.

“I’m just hopeful that Democrats in Kansas are still pumped up enough that they get those ballots back to us because that’s going to be my strongest selling point in saying we need to move to all mail-in ballots,” she says.

The party runs the election itself and had planned to close mail-in registration yesterday, April 7.

If you are a registered Democrat in Kansas, look for your ballot in the mail in the next few days.

With the coronavirus pandemic closing polling places, the party will re-open by-mail registration on April 10 and leave it open through April 24.

Go here to register for the Kansas Democratic primary on or after April 10—voters can still vote for Bernie, and their votes will still be counted.

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