TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed several bills into law Friday, including a bill that would create a state-funded presidential primary.

The governor signed House Bill 2053, establishing a one-time, Presidential Preference Primary for March 14 next year.

The Kansas House voted 86-32 to approve the bill earlier this month after the Senate passed the bill 28-12 in March. The proposal opens up a process currently run by state political parties to Kansas voters. 

“After I was naturalized, I left the ceremony hall and went directly to the election office to register to vote,” said Representative Carl Maughan, R-Colwich, who spoke in favor of the proposal in the House. “It was the greatest pleasure and the greatest privilege of my life after that to participate in electing representatives and, ultimately, the President, and I think that that privilege and honor should be open to as many people as possible, and a Primary does that.”

The proposal, which is now going into effect, divided some lawmakers, during debates.

Republican Representative Trevor Jacobs, from Fort Scott, spoke in opposition to the bill in the House, citing the cost to taxpayers.

According to the fiscal information for the bill, a representative for the Secretary of State’s Office said the cost would be about $5 million to the state. That’s with 60 of the state’s 105 counties reporting estimates for the cost.

“This doesn’t even make any sense at all… the parties themselves should have to pay… not the people. The people shouldn’t have to pay for this. This is the people’s money,” Jacobs said.

Currently, state political parties foot the bill for the vetting Presidential Primary candidates ahead of the election. The parties hold local meetings, where members vote for who they’d like to see on the Primary election ballot. That vote goes to the state political party leaders, then the national party convention for a final vote.

House Bill 2053 opens the process up to all Kansans, registered as a Democrat or Republican, in 2024.

To read more about the bill, click here.