The Senate race in Mississippi where black voters crossed over to cast ballots in a Republican runoff election has added fuel to a growing discussion nationally about how primary elections are conducted — namely, who’s allowed to vote, who isn’t and who controls the process.
Not surprisingly, Mississippi results renewed talk in Alabama among partisan power brokers to change our open primary system to a closed one. GOP chair Bill Armistead has pledged to introduce legislation in 2015 to do just that.
Closing the primaries and enacting partisan registration would force residents to re-register and choose a party affiliation or lose the right to vote in primaries. This in a year where many states are showing a record low voter turnout in partisan primaries.
The latest Gallup poll reports 42 percent of Americans consider themselves independent and in 10 states already, independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans. In this environment, independent voter groups are gaining momentum in efforts to open up primaries and enact nonpartisan elections.
Independent Alabama has supported efforts that strengthen the influence of voters in shaping our election process. We will pursue members of both houses who would put democracy before party interests, and work to defeat any bill in the next session that sets the clock back. Closed primaries would do just that.