At first glance you'd think this seems an awful lot like a 'First World' problem. But for the roughly 27,000 Kansas Democrats, in Douglas County, the economy and their livelihood is closely tied to KU Jayhawk basketball. KU is in Lawrence and Douglas County, which is one of only two true blue counties in the state.
These Democrats have a legitimate scheduling conflict because they are supposed to caucus at the same time the University is playing their last regular season game. They formed a group to protest the rigidity shown by ESPN to reschedule the game to allow them the chance to caucus. From their Facebook Page:
A huge number employees of KU are put in the position of choosing to attend work or exercise their right to vote. KU is a public institution with a mandate to support the participation of its students and faculty in important public events like elections. Any and all policy that creates such conflicts in the integrity of this institution requires exposure and immediate amendment.
— The Journal-World (@LJWorld) March 1, 2016
It seems their efforts have been in vain, as ESPN and the NCAA are not terribly concerned about a caucus, especially a Democratic one. From the Lawrence-Journal World:
The cable sports network ESPN said Monday that it did not know about the Kansas presidential caucuses when it scheduled KU's final regular season game for 3 p.m. Saturday and that it is too late now to change its broadcasting plans.
“Working with the Big 12 Conference, we set the time for ESPN’s national telecast of Iowa State at Kansas, per the normal scheduling process," an ESPN spokesperson said via email. "Due to other live national game commitments on ESPN Saturday, we are unable to move the telecast time.”
It's not as if the Democrats dropped the ball. ESPN decided on a game time less than two weeks ago. Wouldn't you know it, it's at the exact time as the Jayhawks vs Cyclones tip-off?
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Both the Republican and Democratic state parties have had their respective presidential caucus dates set for months. And because caucuses are operated by the parties themselves, rather than by the state, the parties long ago had to reserve time in school gymnasiums, libraries, municipal buildings and other facilities around the state.
And while the date of KU's game against Iowa State has been set since the schedule was announced last year, ESPN did not settle on the exact time of the game until Feb. 19.
Most Republican caucuses in the state allow voting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving voters in those caucuses time to cast their ballots and still catch the game.
But the rules of the Kansas Democratic Party are more complicated. Those voters need to be registered and in place before 3 p.m. when the actual caucusing begins. That's the same time as the scheduled tipoff in the KU-Iowa State game.
Caucus rules for the Democrats in Kansas also do not allow people to cast advance or absentee ballots. Anyone wishing to participate must be physically present at the caucus site at the scheduled time.
Keep in mind, basketball is like religion in Lawrence and the KU basketball team is ranked number one this year.
Sports and democracy do mix. But when there's a conflict, sports nearly always wins. Of course when Democrats are negatively impacted in Kansas, basketball will most assuredly get a W. Seriously, how much Redder can you get than Sam Brownback's Kansas?