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Calloway judge would like to see open primaries

By Austin Ramsey Murray Ledger & Times

MURRAY - As this year's crop of election candidates narrow their focus on November's general election, one local official still has his sights set on last month's primary.

Calloway County Judge-Executive Larry Elkins issued a news release calling on state officials to rethink Kentucky's method of holding primaries: especially, he said, when the costly elections don't represent the entire electorate.

Kentucky joins 12 other states with completely closed primaries, which means voters may only nominate candidates from the political party with which they are affiliated. Voting laws even in national elections are determined by each state individually, and many states have laws to prevent voters from being turned away at the polls.

That's exactly why Elkins says he's making a stand for primary election reform. This election season already, state senators and representatives from states like New Mexico and Pennsylvania have called on their legislative bodies to initiate change.

For Elkins, he said it all began when the County Clerk's Office, poll workers and even he himself were inundated with phone calls and emails about last month's primary.

For the first time in more than a decade, Calloway County saw a local Republican primary race for county attorney. Only registered Republicans had a say in that race, and, as is the case in any closed primary state, voters were given segregated ballots determined by their party registration.

Elkins, however, an Independent, had no say in either race, and any other Calloway County resident registered in a faction other than the Republican or Democratic parties would have been turned away from the polls.

"My office and more to the point the poll workers were really trying to answer questions and taking some verbal abuse for following the rules," Elkins said. "A lot of the voters don't understand the primary system. People were asking who they could vote for and who they couldn't vote for. After I answered two or three calls, I knew I had to say something."

His release Friday came after the first election he's had to sit out since he first began voting, he said. Last year, Elkins publicly left the Democratic Party and became an Independent.

"This is the first time I've not been able to vote in an election," he said. "There's something wrong with this."

Friday, Elkins spent part of the day signing checks to pay for the election from all 30 of Calloway's precincts. Altogether, he said, the county's dolling out $45,000 of taxpayers' money for an election in which not every taxpayer could vote.

"Unless the state is going to allow everyone to vote in the primary, the political parties should pay for their primaries themselves."

Elkins said he encourages others to send their complaints about Kentucky's primary to him via email â “ judgelarry@murray-ky.net â “ and he will forward them to legislators.

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