Friday, February 13, 2009

Closing Down the Primary

Tennessee 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.

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12 Comments:

At Friday, February 13, 2009 8:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know who else is a sore loser?

Jason Dumbpower.

 
At Friday, February 13, 2009 11:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forget one thing:
"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"

Do you think that the parties should then pay for the primay elections?
Why do the tax payers have to pay for your "voluntary associations" elections.
If the parties can control the elections then let them pay for them.

 
At Saturday, February 14, 2009 3:45:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Anon 2;
I have no problem with the parties paying for primary elections. In most States, they in fact DO. Generally, counties provide the vote counters and overseers, but the parties pay for the cost. Most people don't realize that Tennessee law also provides another way to choose political nominees. If the parties wanted to, they could choose to scrap primaries and nominate by convention-it is entirely their call.

This is why parties are able to do as the Democrats did in the case of Rosalind Kurita-nullify her primary, even though she won it. It is a partisan election, governed by the parties in question. That being the case, the parties that govern these elections should have the right to determine who votes in them.

Anon 1:

You really aren't that articulate, are you? Then again, I suppose that is to be expected from someone who insists on making such ignorant comments that demonstrate either a lack of knowledge about what actually happened on January 13th, or simply a carelessness about whether one's leaders have such qualities as honesty, intelligence, or integrity.

There is a difference between anonymity practiced in order to protect oneself because of a choice to expose wrong, and anonymity resorted to because of cowardice and personal acrimony and deceit. You leave the strong impression that you belong to the latter school of devilry.

 
At Saturday, February 14, 2009 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

David,
Closed primaries are fine BUT doing this will cause a change in voter registration; voters will have to chose a party when they register to vote. Forgive me, but I don't see that being particularly popular in Tennessee. This could realy come back and bite you.

SteveMule
PS: I kind'a like the "Dumbpower" monicker - it sort'a sums up the man; remember how he was "on top" of the situation going into Jan 13th???

 
At Sunday, February 15, 2009 5:34:00 PM, Anonymous Steve Rankin said...

States have the right to tell political parties which nomination method(s) to use. Almost all states require the parties to nominate by primary, and all of those states pay the costs. In 1995, a federal appeals court said that, when a state mandates that parties hold primaries, the state must pay the cost of those primaries (Republican Party v. Faulkner County, Arkansas).

In 1986, the US Supreme Court gave parties the right to invite independents to vote in their primaries. In 2005, the Supreme Court said that a state MAY prohibit parties from inviting members of opposing parties to vote in their primaries.

I'll be surprised if the Tennessee bill for party registration is enacted. 29 states and DC now register voters by party. In the last 20 years, only Rhode Island and Utah have adopted party registration.

~~ Steve Rankin
Jackson, Mississippi

 
At Sunday, February 15, 2009 5:53:00 PM, Anonymous Steve Rankin said...

There's a federal lawsuit pending against Idaho's state-mandated open primary.

The US District Court in Boise will hear oral argument in the case on February 18.

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia has ruled that, when a party is forced to nominate by primary, the party decides who votes in that primary (Miller v. Cunningham).

In 2007, a US District Court held that Mississippi's state-mandated open primary is unconstitutional. However, in 2008, the 5th Circuit dismissed the suit on procedural grounds (Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour).

~~ Steve Rankin
Jackson, Mississippi

 
At Sunday, February 15, 2009 11:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oats,

Name any three states where the party and not the tax payer pays for the election cost. I really think your making that up.

Eric Strouss

And no I will not sign up to the Google machine so don't call me a coward for not having an account

 
At Monday, February 16, 2009 1:56:00 AM, Anonymous Steve Rankin said...

The parties pay the costs of such nominating processes as conventions and caucuses, but the states cover the expense of party primaries.

 
At Monday, February 16, 2009 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve.

That's what we do in TN but what were saying is a closed primary that forces people to vote in one of two primaries shouldn't be paid for by the people who have no representation in either party. Oatney is falling into the trap of being another conservative that wants the government to create a new program. I'm done with this thinking in the party.

Eric

 
At Monday, February 16, 2009 10:04:00 PM, Anonymous Steve Rankin said...

The part of the Maggart bill that prohibits independents from voting in party primaries is unconstitutional, because of the 1986 US Supreme Court ruling that I noted in my first comment above. That ruling said that parties have the right to invite independents into their primaries.

The 8th Circuit's 1995 ruling said that, when a state requires parties to hold primaries, the state must pay for those primaries.

 
At Tuesday, February 17, 2009 6:39:00 AM, Anonymous Steve Rankin said...

I've just learned that Tennessee law requires parties to hold primaries for governor, the legislature, and Congress.

But for all other offices, a party may use any method of nomination that it chooses.

 
At Monday, March 09, 2009 1:45:00 PM, Anonymous Krist Novoselic said...

"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."

Well said. Political associations should start to use technology to be more inclusive with nominations. With this privatization, they could demonstrate there is no longer a need for state control.

 

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