Open primary elections an opening to chaos.
The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are one of sports great rivalries. In over 100 years we’ve witnessed just about everything one could witness between two teams. One thing we’ve never seen is the manager of the Red Sox call the manager of the Yankees to tell him which Yankee to pitch in tomorrow’s game. The opposing team doesn’t get to decide who you will put on your lineup card. Neither does the press.
Every four years about this time there’s talk of open primaries in Florida. Proponents will say that that other states do it; that it’s the fair thing to do; that it will create better outcomes to our election process. We disagree. Every primary election day a good number of people show up at the polls and find out that they’ve been closed out of the process. They leave bewildered, and sometimes angry. They want to vote but cannot, and they find this unfair. Is it? In St Lucie County there are 73,000 registered Democrats, 55,000 registered Republicans and 43,000 who listed themselves with no party affiliation, commonly known as NPAs.
We also have 6,500 or so that have registered for one of the many other political parties in the state. Those parties include: America’s Party of Florida, Constitution Party of Florida, Ecology Party of Florida, Florida Socialist Workers Party, Green Party of Florida, Independence Party of Florida, Independent Party of Florida, Justice Party of Florida, Libertarian Party of Florida, Party for Socialism and Liberation – Florida, Peace and Freedom Party of Florida, Reform Party, Tea Party of Florida.
So as you can see the choices are many, and the choice belongs to you. But if you’re not a member of a political party you don’t get to vote in their party’s primary. Isn’t that disenfranchisement? Aren’t we taking away a person’s right to vote?
No. it is exactly the opposite. Political parties do not choose you like it’s a school yard pickup basketball game, where if you’re not chosen you’re left watching others play. You proactively chose your party, or you proactively chose not to be affiliated with any party.
We respect that. We respect your choice. Respect the choice of others who chose a party so they can have the privilege in deciding who gets to represent their party in running for president or running for county commission and everything between.
You can also change your political party. Although if you want to participate in the Presidential Preference Primary in Florida on March 15, 2016 you need to be registered with your candidate’s party by February 16, 2016. Consider yourself forewarned. To her credit, SLC Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker has in the past advertised these dates and the importance of registering with a political party if you wish to vote in the primary election. We expect her to do the same this year.
So, what about the chaos?
For those of you with short memories we’ll take you back to 2008. A freshman senator from Illinois had a substantial lead over a very well-known female senator from New York in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. Conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, urged republicans in open primary states to vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama to give Clinton more delegates and to create a divided convention for the Democrats.
At that point in time the Republican nominee, John McCain, was already chosen so the Republican primaries in the states of Texas, Mississippi, and Ohio were meaningless for the Republicans. To quote Limbaugh, “Texas is open. And I want Hillary to stay in this…. This is too good a soap opera. We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically…”
Only in open primary states can such shenanigans take place. Otherwise you’d have to have huge numbers of people go through the process of changing their voter registration through the supervisor of elections offices.
Just as the Red Sox would have no just cause to tell the Yankees who they can and cannot write into their lineup card; just as Phil Mickelson may not tell Tiger Woods he has to putt with a sand wedge; just as the guy across town should not be able to tell you to plant peppers in your garden when you desire to plant tomatoes; people outside a political party should have no say who gets to represent that party in the general election.
Yes, the argument against open primaries really is that simple. The argument for open primaries really doesn’t exist outside of the desire to create chaos and confusion among political parties and to dilute the will of those that became a member of a party. We believe that elections matter, and the process matters. We don’t need to add any chaos into our elections.
Many NPAs complain about horrible choices in November. It is because they don’t do what they need to do during the primaries. Their inaction helps create the atmosphere they despise. This also includes those party members who choose not to vote in primaries as well. There are way too many of those that don’t vote.
Don’t be confused by editorials that call for openness and fairness. People can vote for whomever they want to. They just need to follow simple steps to do it. Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams wouldn’t have it any other way.