Kansas is Purple: How Voting History has Changed Through the Years

Sydney Slaton, Editor-in-Cheif

Kansas has a strange voting history in that it never seems to stick to one side of the political spectrum; looking back on elections throughout the decades one can see just how much Kansas’ political affiliation changes. 

Kansas has been mainly republican throughout history, with solely republican governors for the first 23 years after its founding and strictly voting red in the presidential elections in recent years. There have been few exceptions to this rule in Kansas history, but when the people do deviate it is often intriguing. 

For example, out of 40 elections Kansas has only voted for the democratic presidential candidate 6 times. During four of those elections, Kansas had a republican governor, in 1912, 1916, 1932, 1936 and 1968. Since ‘68 though, Kansas has exclusively voted for republican candidates. Other than those brief stints in the 1900’s, the only time Kansas didn’t swing red was in 1892 when the people voted for the populist candidate James B. Weaver. During that time, Kansas also had its only populist governor in office. 

At a glance, it seems that Kansas is actually pretty cut and dry, with so many republican leaning elections. But when you take into account the party switch that happened sometime between the 1860s and 1936 it gets murkier. Out of the 33 times Kansas has elected a republican as president, 13 of them were before 1936, when the republican party would’ve been seen as the more radical party– that’s just a little under half! So looking at it like that, Kansas has only voted more conservative 20 times, instead of 33, and it would’ve voted more radically 13 times instead of 6.

Something similar happens when you look at who Kansas has elected governor. Since the mid 70s, Kansas has had an equal split of red and blue governors, but in total there have been 35 republican governors and only 12 democratic governors elected. But again, when you remember the party switch, it changes the numbers a little. Only around 15 of those republican governors were elected after the party switch, making the number of more conservative leaning governors closer to 20 and the number of more radical leaning governors closer to 26. Close enough to 50-50, but those numbers would make Kansas more of a democratic state than republican. 

The statistics above help to prove that Kansas hasn’t always had the same political affiliations from century to century, but if you combine the two elections’ results you’ll see they can change from year to year too. Kansas has voted for presidents from opposite parties as their current governor six times, all had been under democratic governors and all happening in the last 54 years. Many of those elections took place during very turbulent times for America, with the 1968 election basically being over who was going to handle the Vietnam War in the best way the people saw fit. Or in 1980 when the American public wanted someone who was going to help fix the economy. It just shows that Kansas will often go with whoever or whatever they think is best for the country in their eyes, rather than a certain color. 

Kansas has been undecided on where they stand since the beginning it seems. When you take a closer look at Kansas’ election history you can certainly find some interesting deviations from what many think Kansas values.