Closing Down the PrimaryTennessee House Republican Whip Debra Maggart has introduced a bill that would close our partisan primaries in Tennessee to those people who identify themselves in their voter registration as a member of the Republican or Democratic party. This is legislation that is long overdue which is designed to prevent the rampant crossover voting which occurs in the primaries of both political parties in Tennessee, and gives both Republicans and Democrats control over their party's nominating process.
Expect the opponents of this legislation to try and claim that Maggart and those who support closed primaries are attempting to disenfranchise people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing in Representative Maggart's proposal could or should be construed as depriving any citizen of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice in a General Election. The Maggart Bill does implicitly recognize that political parties are not institutions of government, they merely participate in that government just as elected representatives and voters do. As voluntary associations, our political parties have every right to determine how they shall nominate candidates for public office, and who participates in that nominating process. If parties determine that a primary is the best way to choose candidates, then a party has the right to keep its primary a "members only" affair so that Republicans nominate Republicans, and Democrats choose the nominees of their party.
Recall that in 2008, former Congressman David Davis complained that he was defeated in the Republican Congressional Primary in the First District because of Democratic crossover voters. I voted for and supported Davis, but I was agitated by his reaction to defeat. I thought he was being a sore loser because he ran a sub-par campaign and didn't take into account the dogged tenacity of his opponent, now-Congressman Phil Roe. I also knew, as Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey pointed out, that our modern election laws in Tennessee have allowed for open primaries for many years, and anyone running in a primary must assume that crossover voting will occur under the present system.
David Davis did have a point, however. Although he had plenty of opposition from inside the party-enough that he would have faced a serious challenge even in a closed primary-the margin of defeat for Davis being what it was (less than 500 votes) means that Roe simply could not have beaten Davis without Democratic votes. Going after the votes of Democrats in a Republican nominating contest is perfectly acceptable in the present order of things, and Roe can't be faulted for doing what the law presently allows him to do.
The law allows for crossover primary voting, but this deprives bona fide Republicans of the right to nominate a candidate of their choice without serious impediment. Hence, the only way to prevent this kind of thing (Democrats nominating a Republican or vice versa) is to change the law.