NO On Closing Primaries

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

“Should citizens who wish to vote in a primary election be required to register by their political party
affiliation at least thirty (30) days prior to such primary election?”

Now we’re talking. …about the inside baseball of Georgia politics. How many Georgians are losing
sleep at night wondering or worrying about whether or not folks who vote in Georgia’s primaries have
registered their party affiliation when they registered to vote, or at least 30 days before a primary? Not
many. Those that do are worried about keeping the majority power they have obtained.

Political super majorities often act in a bi-polar fashion. There is a supreme arrogance of power that
they and their members are untouchable and cannot be beat. After all, “they’ve been doing these
things for years and they keep getting re-elected”.

But many within these majorities do not sleep well at night. They live in bubbles surrounded by
sycophantic suck ups and are generally distanced from any real unpleasantness. Yet doubts persist,
paranoia creeps in, and eventually the untouchable class begins to feel they must begin tweaking the
rules in order to ensure that their power is never challenged.

Democrats did this often when they were the super-majority power in Georgia. Straight ticket balloting
was eliminated when it was believed it was hurting Democrats more than helping them. Runoff rules
were changed to allow for victories of less than 50% in some races.

This ballot question appears to be of a similar vein, and will likely have more effect on the psyche of
hyper-partisans than it will on the results of many elections.

Republicans are worried that now they are the only game in town, great unwashed masses of
independents and even Democrats will begin to vote in Republican primaries. This would cause great
issues for Republicans who put issues aside every two years and run campaigns designed to ensure they
they hate homosexuality, illegal immigration, Sharia Law, and abortion more than the person they are
running against. Allowing voters into these currently open contest would just muddy these tried and
true waters.

Imagine the horror of incumbents and their well paid consultants if they had to run campaigns
explaining why Georgia’s taxes on consumers continues to rise while any industry that asks can have
a tax break designed for it? Or if voters demanded to know why the legislature was so keen on giving
Georgia Power $1 Billion dollars in advance profits on a plant that has yet to be built? And why those
large companies were exempt from paying for that other large companies profit so that the share from
each of us for that plant had to be increased?

No, answering silly policy questions such as those would be too much for a campaign. Instead, it’s best
to keep people who think independently and ask rogue policy questions as far away from primaries as
possible. This ballot question is behind a move to attempt to keep parties pure.

Republicans would do well to remember that there are still places here in Georgia where they are not
the majority party. DeKalb county Republicans still take credit for crossing over into a Democratic
primary in order to defeat incumbent Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The voting record of Wright
McLeod in GA-12 has come under scrutiny because he has voted in mostly Democratic primaries,
ostensibly because that’s where his local leaders are chosen. (…which comes nowhere near explaining
why he voted in the 2008 Presidential Preference Primary where only presidential candidates were on
the ballot. That’s a column for another day, however.)

Georgia currently has a system of open primaries. It generally works well, and has the effect of some
leveling a playing field when an area tips too far into super-majority status.

Changing the rules now would help Republicans on their never ending quest for purges over purity.
The problem when people start getting purged is there is less diversity of thought and more coalescing
around positions that are not where the middle independent voter is.

Republicans should think this one over carefully. A ballot question designed to move the party even
further to the right may also help it move away from the majority it took a century to make. I’ll take the
status quo, as it seems to have served Republicans well. Those that want change best be careful what
they are actually wishing for.

16 comments

  1. seenbetrdayz says:

    Then there’s the argument based on publicly-funded primaries.

    If the GOP wanted to close primaries, wouldn’t they be required to fund them internally, with its own party funds, instead of taking everyone’s tax dollars to host primary elections but excluding many of those same people from the process. Not sure how that would effect democrats. I assume that if one party closes primaries, both would have to. Or would the GOP forfeit its public funding for primaries while the Democrats opt to retain theirs?

    The ballot question also assumes that everyone has a political party, if you read it carefully. Fitting, given the attitude in politics today that there can only possibly be two categories of Americans: D’s & R’s.

  2. cheapseats says:

    Charlie is right, as usual.

    I am not a Republican or a Democrat (also not a Socialist, Communist, Libertarian, Green, or any other). Parties and party politics are destroying our Republic by polarizing our electoral process!

    If the R’s go through with this thing, I’m going to register as a Republican and vote against everything that I think they want just out of spite since my only other choice would be to vote “Present”.

    • NoTeabagging says:

      “vote against everything that I think they want just out of spite ”
      That’s what both parties do, when in session at the state and federal level.

      We need independent politicians that will create and vote for good legislation that makes real changes in this country. End the kool-aid-drinking-do-nothing-except-what-my party-says-system!

  3. cheapseats says:

    BTW: I pulled a Republican ballot this time around so I could vote against the Speaker’s “hand-picked” choice. Since the election was going to be decided in the primary, I decided my “primary” motivation was to slap Ralston in the only way I could.

  4. NoTeabagging says:

    I am glad we don’t have to choose until we get to the voting location. I will never register to any party affiliation. I realize by voting in a primary, I am bound to vote among the same slate in a runoff, but I accept that. But voting in a primary does not mean I am a member of that party.
    If I want to ‘crossover’ occasionally, it is my right to do so, even if the reason is just to muck with the system.

    I am glad I do not live in a state where you have to register for a party when you register to vote.
    That seems unconstitutional.

    • Harry says:

      I agree. If you want an example of a state with required party registration, and then each party determines whether or not non-affiliated registrants can vote in a given primary, look at California.

  5. joe says:

    The assortment(house, senate, BOC, BOE…) of districts that I live in are all gerrymandered to give somebody an advantage. I vote in each party’s primary about half of the time. It just depends on which race has a chance of unseating the incumbent.

  6. SallyForth says:

    Good column, Charlie. I, for one, am sick and tired of both party’s bosses deciding which candidates we the people get to vote for. Republicans and Democrats concoct these schemes to manipulate the process. They are no-names that the general public never gets to vote on, yet they control our democratic general elections by manipulating the numbers within their own “primary” (remember what the DNC did to Hillary in 2008, counting fractions of people in some states in order to reduce her total number of votes actually cast?). The parties tell us the two major candidates that all America gets to vote on, regardless of which qualifying candidate we thought best.

    Let’s take the general election ballot back to the format of Washington, Jefferson, et.al. Line up all the candidates alphabetically, without a D or an R beside their name (no matter which party they choose, or if they choose none). Let every registered voter vote for the individual they deem best, and the person with the most votes wins. Stop letting political party power brokers run our democracy (or is that ruin?).

    • How about we not just accept the person with the most votes, but use Instant Runoff Voting instead? That way we don’t end up with someone possibly winning a 3 way race with just a hair over 1/3 of the votes. 🙂

        • SallyForth says:

          I could go for that – or simply do a regular run-off election so the winner ends up with 50% plus at least one vote. We just need a democratic voting process that is not controlled by unknown party bosses in obscure meeting rooms somewhere in Washington or wherever.

  7. Painterman says:

    So you’re OK that a Libertarian can vote as a Democrat or Republican in the General Primary and then elect their candidate for the November ballot at their convention and vote against the Democrat or Republican they voted for in the Primary? Shouldn’t we still try to ensure one person one vote?

  8. I typically vote in the Republican primaries. However, there are times when this pretty much leaves me without a say in certain races. For instance, when I vote in the Republican primary on July 31st, I will have no say in the Cobb County District 4 race for county commissioner or school board for my district. I live in a district that is fairly divided between Republicans and Democrats but leans enough Democrat that you can pretty much expect the D to win in November. Looking at a sample ballot, there aren’t even any Republicans that have qualified for those races. Similarly, if I vote Democrat, that would pretty much mean I don’t get to vote in the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Cobb, as there are no Democrats that have qualified to run for that office.

    Personally, I would prefer that we did away with the party system and let people run on ideas instead of party. There are quite a few people in this country who don’t fit neatly in a box for one of the two major parties or that fit somewhere in between even a third party and the two major parties. Let however many people qualify run and then use instant runoff voting to let people vote. I would think that people would then actually have to research where candidates stand instead of blindly assuming a candidate believes something just because they associate themselves with the R or D or L or whatever. I highly doubt something like what I describe would ever happen, but one can always dream, right?

    • SallyForth says:

      Right on, David – “Personally, I would prefer that we did away with the party system and let people run on ideas instead of party. There are quite a few people in this country who don’t fit neatly in a box for one of the two major parties or that fit somewhere in between even a third party and the two major parties. Let however many people qualify run…” Then do run-offs by traditional means or however, to attain 50% plus 1.

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