Cross-Over Voting and the Primary Process

When the professional partisans of the major parties argue in favor of closed primaries, their main malicious boogeyman is the so-called cross-over voter.  If you are not registered with their party, they maintain, you should not be allowed to cast a ballot in a publicly funded primary election because your intention might be to somehow sabotage the party's nomination process with your single vote by casting your ballot for a weak candidate.  Freedom of association, they state, implies the right to exclude non-party members from the nominating process to protect the party against malicious cross-over voters.  Fair enough.  But why should the rest of us have to foot the bill to administrate the nominating process of some private affair such as a Republican or Democratic party primary?  If the primary is a publicly funded election, shouldn't that election be open to the public?  A lengthy and highly informative article at Ogden on Politics takes a close look at the primary process in general and the phenomenon of cross-over voting in Indiana in particular, to make the case that a voter should be allowed to vote in any primary she or he wishes.  Excerpt:
There only is one issue, if it can be called that, on which both "major" parties agree: make matters as difficult as possible for another party to obtain equal status, especially access to placement on the ballots. The individual parties are not named in Indiana statutes that regulate primaries. The parties do not have to be named. There have been other parties, always - as long as I can remember, and from what I have read - called "third" parties. Occasionally a candidate for (what usually is not a major) office from such a party will draw a respectable number of votes. Rarely, a third-party candidate will win. The reality is that the two major parties hold the lock and all sets of keys to the system . . .
The two "major" political parties have used (or some would say "abused") the mechanisms of government to preserve their forms and dominance, and advance their interests, by statute. . . . The two parties control the basic structure of the election process . . . These statutes were enacted by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. The majorities in both houses and the governor were Democrats and Republicans. It is reasonable to infer the legislation in which they take the keenest interest and upon which their political lives depend - that encompassing election laws - was drawn in such a way as to give their parties control . . .  A voter otherwise eligible should be able to vote in the primary election of either party for several reasons.
The whole article is well worth a read.  The piece contains a number of fascinating tidbits.  For instance, in Indiana, any poll worker or voter may challenge any other voter's right to cast a ballot in a party primary.  Excerpt:  
I.C. 3-10-1-6 allows a person to vote in a primary election for a specific party - Voter only can vote in one party's primary or the other - if the person is listed in the poll books for that precinct. There is a record of the party for which the person voted in the previous primary. But Voted can ask for a ballot in the other party's primary. It has been my experience that the poll workers ask a person "What ballot do you want?" I never have been asked a variation of "You have voted Democrat in the past. Is that the ballot you want?" I.C. 3-10-1-9 allows for Voter to be challenged at the primary. "A voter in a precinct may challenge a voter or person who offers to vote at a primary election. The challenged person may not vote unless the person (1) is registered; (2) makes: (A) an oral or written affirmation under IC 3-10-12; or (B) an affidavit ... (3) at the last general election voted for a majority of the regular nominees of the political parties for whose candidates the challenged person proposes to vote in the primary election and intends to vote for the regular nominees of the political party at the next general election; or (B) if the challenged voter did not vote at the last general election, intends to vote at the next general election for a majority of the regular nominees of the political party holding the primary election."
Are there such laws on the books in any other states?

1 comment:

Samuel Wilson said...

It seems like you could make the same arguments Small does in favor of allowing each voter to participate in all party primaries, on the premise that each voter has an interest in securing the best range of choices on Election Day. Speaking for myself, I've been wary toward crossover voting on freedom-of-association principles, while accepting your argument against public funding. But how people are nominated for offices is a fundamental question in a democratic republic. Before parties consolidated themselves, "mass meetings" were arranged to nominate men in the name of the entire people of a given community. Stage-managed as these must have been, they still implied a right of all citizens to assemble publically for the purpose of nominating a candidate for office, as well as an individual right to nominate someone. It might be argued that closed party primaries violate those rights, which would take priority over the private association rights of a given party, if the primaries are conceded to be the only practical occasion for the people to nominate candidates. If primaries are to remain exclusive as a matter of private right, then perhaps the nominee chosen by a closed primary should not appear automatically on the ballot, but should have to collect signatures to earn his or her spot.