Tag Archives: primaries

State GOP to consider new push for party registration in TN

The Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee has scheduled a special meeting Feb. 7 to consider a resolution asking the General Assembly to require party registration for voting in party primaries, reports the Johnson City Press.

Tennessee currently has an “open primary” system. The idea of changing to a “closed primary” system has been kicked around for the past few years and was introduced as a legislative bill in 2012, though it never came to a vote.

Former Unicoi County sheriff and current Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committeeman Kent Harris is among members of his committee who feel Democrats should vote for Democrats and Republicans should vote for Republicans.

…Harris, who represents the state’s 3rd Senate District on the Executive Committee, is one of 16 committee members who have requested the special called meeting. He said many states require party registration before voting in party primaries, but Tennessee is not one of them.

As it is now, voters in the state can go to a polling place on one primary election day and state they are a Republican while stating they are a Democrat the day of the next primary election.

“On the day of the primary, you can go in and say you’re a Republican, even though you’ve voted Democrat, maybe going to vote Democrat in the future,” Harris said. “There’s really no loyalty test to say, ‘I’m really a member of this party to vote in the primary election.’ ”

…He said particularly in the middle and western parts of the state, Democratic voters have cast ballots in Republican primaries in an attempt to bring about a more favorable outcome for their party.

“In a primary election, you have Republican primaries and you have Democrat primaries,” Harris said. “There’s a stark contrast in the platforms of the Republican and the Democrat (parties), and you want to elect a strong Republican in the primary, and this would allow Republicans the choice to do that instead of the Democrat coming in and voting in the Republican primary, especially in the lower end of the state.”

The Executive Committee discussed the matter in early December and gave its Issues Subcommittee 30 days to study the matter and return a report to the full committee, Harris said. However, Harris said the the subcommittee did not return its report within this time frame but should have the information ready at the Feb. 7 meeting. Harris said he and several of his fellow committee members sought the special called meeting, as the deadline to present proposed bills to the General Assembly for its consideration is Feb. 12.

Note: A post from back during the 2012 debate over closed primaries — state GOP Chairman Chris Devaney was opposed — is HERE.

Democratic election commissioner censured for voting in GOP primary; may be ousted

Maury County’s Election Commission on Monday censured one of its Democratic members and is asking state officials to consider removing him from office for voting in the local Republican primary, reports the Columbia Daily Herald.

The board voted 3-2 to censure commissioner Lynn C. Nelson of Columbia, the vice president of the Maury County Democratic Party who served as a Tennessee delegate to the national Democratic Party Convention in 2012.

Commissioner Jerry Colley joined Nelson in voting against the motion to censure. Colley, also a Democrat, said he believes Nelson did not know a state statute limits voting in a primary to a bona fide member of the sponsoring party or a voter who declares allegiance to that political party.

“I don’t think I even knew that,” Colley said.

Tiny Jones, the election commission’s chairwoman, said Nelson defended his actions on Monday by saying he believed he has the right to vote since he is a taxpayer, and tax dollars paid for the election. Nelson did not return a telephone message seeking comment left at his home on Monday.

…Commission member Jason Whatley said Monday’s action was unfortunate, but necessary.

“Contrary to many public pronouncements by various people, a party primary is not open to anyone to come and essentially make a mockery of the process,” he said. “People who disagree with that are disagreeing with the law and they’re demonstrating a gross misunderstanding of what the law says. This system is based on good faith and the trust of of those who seek to vote in that election. Some might say that’s a reckless system and it ought to be changed, but until it is changed, good faith is the defense that the system has.”

Tuesday’s primary is the first-ever local Republican party election in Maury County and has caused some confusion about who is eligible to cast a ballot. Although all registered voters may vote in the primary, voting is generally limited to party members or those who intend to affiliate with that party.

A designated poll watcher may challenge a voter at the polling location if he believes the voter is not qualified to cast a ballot in a specific primary. That challenge then is reviewed by a panel of three poll judges. There are no designated poll watchers for this election.

…Last week, Maury County Republican Party Chairwoman Pat Junkin addressed concerns about cross-over voting in the primary and indicated those who did vote could receive a membership card and a bill for party dues. In an email message on Monday, Junkin said voters will not be receiving a bill but could receive a membership card “as a welcoming courtesy.”

Democrats See Primaries as Start of Rebuilding in Legislature

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Democrats are looking at Thursday’s primary as a critical step in the rebuilding urged by an internal analysis last year.
Since 2006, Democrats have lost 19 seats in the House and three seats in the Senate, placing them firmly in the minority of the two chambers. Another nine Democratic incumbents announced earlier this year they weren’t running again.
Then there are the newly redrawn districts by Republicans that are pitting several incumbent Democrats against each other in the primary this week.
Nevertheless, Democratic leaders say they’re optimistic about the party’s 47 challengers and incumbents in races.
“We’re incredibly encouraged by the quality of Democratic candidates we see in serious races throughout the state,” said Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese. “We’ll … look to them for leadership as we continue on a new, strategic path forward to rebuild the people’s Democratic Party in Tennessee.”

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An AP Story on Republican Legislative Primaries

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two dozen Republican incumbents face challengers in legislative primaries, but party leaders say those bids signal enthusiasm — not dissatisfaction — with the way the GOP has run the Statehouse.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga called it a “a sign of a healthy system to have primary opponents,” even though the caucus has to raise more money to defend incumbents.
“Having opponents makes you a better legislator, so I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from running,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.
McCormick also noted that more Republicans want to become lawmakers given the party’s firm control in both chambers of the General Assembly.
“It’s much more desirable to run for one of these seats when you’re in the majority than when you’re in the minority and don’t have much influence,” he said.

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State GOP Turns Thumbs Down on Closed Primaries

By Erik Schelzig
The executive committee of the state Republican Party on Saturday voted down a proposal to require party registration to vote in Tennessee primaries.
The policy panel rejected the proposal sponsored by committee member Mark Winslow, a former executive director of the state GOP, on a voice vote.
Tennessee voters aren’t registered by party, and voters often decide in which primary to participate depending on campaign developments. The law allows for challenges of people who are not a “bona fide member” of political party, though that status is not clearly defined.

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