Friday, February 22, 2019

Bill to close Tennessee primaries and require party registration advances.

by Rod Williams, 2/22/2019 -In December the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee voted to support "closed primaries" and party registration in Tennessee. Legislation to accomplish that has not been introduced.

In Tennessee there has never been such a thing as a "registered Republican" or "registered Democrat" but that is common in much of the country. In Tennessee as it stand now, when you go to vote, you check a box on your request for a ballot form, indicating in which primary you would like to vote. The next time you go to vote you could vote in the primary of the other party if you wanted.

A bill has been introduced in the State House called the "Political Party Registration Act," that would require one to register as a Republican, a Democrat or unaffiliated or a specific other party identity. At election time only a registered Republican could vote in a Republican primary and only a registered Democrat could vote in a Democrat primary. People who registered as a member of the Libertarian Party or the Green Party or unaffiliated with a party would not be able to vote in a primary.

One could change their party affiliation but to do so and then vote in that party's primary one would have to change their registration before the end of the registration period of the primary election in which they wished to vote. I am not sure how far in advance of the election that is but it is several weeks, if not months. It would also require submitting a new voter registration form, so it is not something one would do often.

The argument in favor of doing this is that only true Republican ought to vote in Republican primaries and the same for Democrats. It is hard to argue with that logic. Some Republicans I have talked to believe that Democrats often vote in Republican primaries to vote for the worst Republican in order for the Democrat to run against a weak candidate. I don't see any evidence of this. I doubt it happens.

The other argument is that since there may not be a serious contest in the Democrat Party, that Democrats will vote in the Republican Primary and vote for the Republican they like the best or the Republican they dislike the least. This is probably so. I sometimes vote in the Democrat primary in Davidson County elections and vote for whom I perceive to be the best Democrat or at least the least objectionable candidate.  In Davidson County, the Democrat primary is the election, since Republicans do not run candidates.

Some people who think of themselves as independent voters or who say they vote for the person, not the party, argue they should have to right to vote in any primary based on who they want to vote for at the time of the primary election. They see party registration as an infringement on their right to vote. I see no logic to that argument. A primary election is to nominate the party's candidates. Why should people who are not Republican chose the Republican candidate?

The argument made by many Republicans pushing the closed primary is that the party would nominate more ideologically conservative candidates if only registered Republicans could vote to nominate Republican candidates. Many of these feel that people like Bill Haslam, Lamar Alexander, and Bob Corker are "RINO" or are too liberal. It may be true that a more conservative candidate would have an edge if only people who are registered to vote as Republican chose Republican candidates. In my view however, Tennessee has chosen good Republicans. In temperament they may not be bomb-throwers but we have elected thoughtful, problem-solving, pragmatic, conservative people to office. If you think about our candidates since Republican resurgence in Tennessee, I think Winfield Dunn, Bill Brock, Fred Thomson, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Marsha Blackburn have been good candidates and the people we needed at the time. I don't think a closed primary would have produced better candidates.

I favor keeping the system of open primaries we have now, simply because it has served us well. Republicans hold the governor's office, seven of nine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 73 of 99 seats in the State House and 28 of the 33 seats in the State Senate. We have also increased the number of county mayors and courthouse offices held by Republicans across the state. Except for the islands of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee is Republican. I think one reason this has happened is because of open primaries. In the 1970's Tennessee was a predominantly Democrat state. Tennessee gradually became Republican. I don't think people who are Democrat have an epiphany and wake up one day and realize they are really Republican. Instead, overtime, they gradually start voting for candidates they like who happen to be Republican and gradually come to realize they are Republican. Open primaries allow that process to take place. Maybe that is why Republicans, who in the 1970's opposed close primaries, now favor them; they don't want Republicans to migrate toward becoming Democrats.

If I had my preference, I would stay with open primaries and leave things the way they are for the reasons I have stated. However, this is one of those issues, about which I don't feel that passionate. Some Republicans get mad at other Republicans over this issue. I don't.  I have my preference but I just can't get that adamant about it. It is not that I don't understand the arguments. If the change occurs, I think in reality, it will have minimal impact one way or the other.  

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment