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Should the NCGOP Close Primary Elections?


Circulating around Facebook is the text of a proposal to be taken up at this year’s NCGOP Convention to restrict voting in Republican Primary elections to only registered members of the Party. Currently, unaffiliated voters are allowed to participate in the Party primary of their choosing.  This resolution, if passed, would prevent that.

Here is the text:

Whereas, the current North Carolina practice of holding open primaries, could allow non-Republicans to pick the North Carolina GOP candidates for the general election.

Whereas, the North Carolina GOP can close the primaries as per ;§ 163 119. Voting by unaffiliated voter in party primary. If a political party has, by action of its State Executive Committee reported to the State Board of Elections by resolution delivered no later than the first day of December preceding a primary, provided that unaffiliated voters may vote in the primary of that party, an unaffiliated voter may vote in the primary of that party by announcing that intention under G.S. 163 166.7(a). For a party to withdraw its permission, it must do so by action of its State Executive Committee, similarly reported to the State Board of Elections no later than the first day of December preceding the primary where the withdrawal is to become effective. (1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 762, s. 7; 2002 159, s. 21(a).)

Whereas, Republicans are most likely to pick the candidates that most closely adhere to and advance the platform of the NC GOP.

Whereas, the significant number of Republicans who have recently left the GOP may well be encouraged to re-register as Republicans if that were the only way they could influence the party slate.

Whereas, open primaries make it possible for non-Republicans to skew the primary vote so that the candidate that most reflects the values of the Republican Party does not receive enough votes to avoid an expensive run-off election.

Whereas, hijinks such as Sen. Thad Cochran’s controversial tactic of recruiting Democrats to secure his nomination in Mississippi’s most recent Republican primary result in a lack of trust in the electoral process by the voting public.

Whereas, trust in the party is essential if our GOP candidates are to win elections.

Therefore be it resolved that the NC State GOP close its primaries and allow only registered Republicans to vote in them and that this resolution shall become effective upon adoption.

There is something to be said for this idea.  As a private organization, it has always seemed silly to me that people who aren’t members should be allowed to have a voice on the internal matters of the organization.  I’ve even mentioned in print before my support for this as part of a series of reforms I think are necessary.  However, some reforms can not stand alone, and I believe this is one of them.

Before diving into that, let me first provide a terrific commentary on the matter by Jordon Greene, head of Free the Vote NC.

There has been a lot of talk lately about closing the Republican Primary in NC to just Republicans. At face value, I would be for this like so many others are. However, there is much more to this than a simple should or should it not be closed.

First and foremost, is the nature of the Primary and the Political Party. A political party is nothing more than a private organization that works toward the election for a specified group of candidates based on a platform of ideas. It is a private organization with its own rules. It can rightfully choose who can and cannot participate in its business and operation without violating anyone’s rights. A Primary Election, is not really an election, at least not one that is rightfully covered under constitutional protections of free elections. It is nothing more than one of the private political parties process for nominating who will represent that parties banner in the upcoming General Election (the election that must be free and equal).

It would seem, rightfully so, that by nature a political party has the right to limit who can participate in its nomination process, in NC’s case the Primary for its party candidates. They should be able to, and in fact I support them being able to allow only members of their Party to vote in their Primaries. However, that is not all there is to consider because of the progressive reform that the Primary Election is.

More importantly now is that the Primary Election is funded entirely by tax-payer dollars. The Parties to not ask for donations and pay the state to conduct the Primary for their party on their behalf. No, you are forced to pay for the Primaries of all parties in North Carolina regardless of your truly held political values. Jefferson calls this notion tyrannical. The political ideal of this aside, the fact that every tax-payer in the state is required to furnish the some $10 million it takes to fund these Primaries necessitates that all voters have the option of choosing which Primary they wish to vote in regardless of their affiliation because they are being forced to pay for it.

NOW, as I said before, I believe in closing the Primary to Party members only. BUT, this can only be done if FIRST we end public funding of Primary Elections and require Parties to fund their own nomination process, whether it be paying the state to conduct the Primary for them or nominating candidates by convention. This would remove the unethical idea of preventing individuals from voting in a Primary Election which they paid for.

So once we end public funding of Primary Elections, then yes, we should close the Primary in my opinion to Party Members only, but only once that has occured. Anything less is a continuation of poor big-government ideas and a spread the wealth mentality in contradiction to conservative ideals.

I agree with that sentiment 100%, but I would also add another criteria, as I mentioned in the post linked above.  The general election needs to be open to all.

Closing even privately funded primaries while continuing to alienate non party affiliated people from running in the general election serves as a detriment to representation. The government deciding that only certain private organizations get a position on the ballot, and that I must join one to have a say in who the candidates on the ballot are, I think is wrong.

The current rules for appearing on a statewide ballot in NC involves collecting over 89,000 qualified signatures.  This is a tremendous hurdle.  By comparison, Kentucky requires 5,000 signatures, South Carolina requires 10,000, and Virginia recently lowered their requirement to 5,000. 

In NC, a potential candidate spends all of their resources just trying to get petitions signed and less time telling people where they stand on the issues and actually campaigning for votes. The two processes are entirely different. I can see a moderate financial outlay to be placed on the ballot to keep out people who are “just kidding” or “doing it for kicks”, but it should be a minimal hurdle. 

What I’m saying is that the only election should be the general election. Anybody who wants to run should be able to run. Now, organizations will want to support various candidates, as is their right. The Democrats will want a standard bearer, as will the Republicans, as will members of tea parties, or Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, or any other group. These groups have complete authority to throw their weight behind any of the candidates they want, but their decision process should be closed to just members and not paid for with tax dollars.

If access to the general election is to be kept restricted, primaries should remain open to those who pay for them.

Again I reiterate, “join our club or have no say in who gets on the general election ballot” is tyrannical. I don’t use that word lightly either for show…I literally mean it’s tyrannical.


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