Crossover Republican voters in Democratic primaries in '04

A number of states have so-called “open primaries” in which any voter may chose to vote in either the Republican Primary or the Democratic Primary.

Georgia is one such state. In 2000, Gore was assured of winning the Democratic nomination, so many Democratic voters crossed over in the primaries to cast a vote for John McCain. I did so myself (in good faith- reasoning that I would prefer a choice between McCain and Gore on the November ballot, since I could live with McCain better than with Bush).

This time around, it looks like Bush will be unchallenged in the Republican primaries. So will Republicans (in states where it is permitted) cross over to vote in the Democratic primaries? And if so, how might that affect the outcome? (Does anyone know how many states have open primaries, by the way?)

I would be curious to hear from Republicans on the board as to whether they have given any thought to doing this, and if so, whom they might be inclined to support in the Democratic primary. Also, would you be inclined to vote for your favorite out of the Democratic field (the “lesser evil” from your perspective), or would you cast a vote for someone you perceive to be “unelectable” so as to give Bush a better shot in the fall?


Unelectable. I’d probably vote for Lieberman if my state allowed it…

When I was an undergrad poli-sci major we had a debate about whether or not there was an significant intentional crossing over by people trying to get poor candidates put on the ballot for the other party. (i.e. Republicans registering as Democrats in order to vote for Sharpton or something). The literature on the issue concluded that any such effects were minute, and probably canceled out. Having siad that were I to undertake this practice, I would try to vote for someone who I thought would be the weakest candidate that was still capable of winning the nomination. i wouldn’t vote for Sharpton or Kerry, but I might vote for Liberman or Gepheart as I see both of them as still capable of winning the nomination, but less likely to beat Bush than Dean.

It’s easier than that in Georgia, Rhum Runner. We don’t have party registration. All you have to do is walk in on primary day and tell the poll worker you want a Democratic ballot. No muss, no fuss. I don’t know how many states have a process where it’s this easy to vote in the other side’s primary.

I was just thinking about this earlier today. Although I’ve always voted in the Republican primary (and I think I’m registered R, although I don’t remember doing so), I was thinking about voting in the D primary this time.

I’ve been less than totally pleased with Bush, however, so I will have no problem voting for the ‘best’ Democratic candidate as I see them. If I can find one.

As a Democrat, I’ll just recall that in 2000, a lot of Democrats voted for McCain because they were genuinely enthused by his candidacy. While some Dems surely voted for McCain just to slow Bush down, I’ve got to believe that enthusiasm was the main factor. (He could still completely turn things topsy-turvy for next year, if he decided to run - as a Pubbie, a Dem, or an independent. It won’t happen, more’s the pity.)

I can’t imagine that many Pubbies are all that excited about any of the Dems currently running. Hell, not many Dems are all that excited about the options. So I can totally relate to Skammer’s “if I can find one” comment. Gore’s looking better every day.

I would have moral problems with this option. In fact I have moral problems with the entire concept of open primaries for this reason. Forcing someone to allow their (political) opponents to have a say in chosing their standard bearer is wrong, and is a denial of democratic principles.

I know the open primary system has its critics, but as a Democratic moderate I love it; I believe it encourages political moderation. It is especially useful in states that tend to be dominated by one party or the other.

Let’s say you are in a solidly Democratic state (as Georgia used to be) and you get a radical left-winger in the governor’s chair. He goes about pushing a radical agenda, appointing radical judges, etc. With the open primary, he has put himself at serious risk of facing a moderate primary challenger. Not only will moderate Democrats vote for this challenger, but Republicans will be so outraged by the governor’s conduct that they will cross over to help defeat him in the primaries. That extra nudge may make the difference between a radical Democratic governor and a moderate Democratic governor.

Contrary to your conclusions, Izzy, it seems to me that this scenario is eminently democratic, since it tends to produce moderate politicians (which in my view, reflects the will of a moderate majority).

By this logic, it would be democratic to outlaw extremist groups, like say, the Communist Party, which is clearly a fringe extremist group that the public at large does not want. The point of democracy is not just producing a result that the public wants, but in allowing everyone to have a say, and accepting the majority result. By forcing open primaries, you are disallowing people from having their say - they can not chose who they want to represent them and their views because other people who don’t share their views have the right to decide who speaks for them.

No, “outlawing” parties is not democratic, and not what spoke- is advocating, either. That was not a helpful comment.

But, although inducing moderation in the people who actually get into office is laudable, that’s what general elections are for. A party and its adherents should be able to pick their own candidates, and should accept the electoral consequences of picking someone too far outside the mainstream - and that’ll teach 'em not to pick extremists in the future, or so we should hope. Sure, there’s a problem when both parties do so at once, but the same problem can occur by default when a party’s more reasonable members don’t participate in their own primary anyway.

So which Democrat would disaffected Republicans vote for instead? Depends on why they’re disaffected, ideology (probably of the single-issue variety) or competence or lying or something else. Each would pick the Democrat who most differs from Bush on their most significant issue, not the one who most resembles a “typical” Republican. That makes these hypothetical crossover Republicans typical of the Democratic voter mix, at this point - when the eventual nominee becomes clear, he’ll get support crystallized around him from both the Democratic side and the Bush-must-go Republican side at about the same rate.

Well now, you don’t say? Hey, here’s a clue for you: when someone says “by this logic…” they are not claiming that the other person has advocated it. Generally if the other guy is advocating something you don’t need to bring it up yourself. No, what is happening is that you are applying the principle that the other guy espoused, and showing that this could produce an illogical or unpalatable result. Familiarize yourself with this concept - you may encounter it elsewhere.

In this case, outlawing the party is an extension of the open primary logic espoused by spoke-. Outlawing the party would be a total ban on expression. Open primaries are a partial ban - they make it more difficult for people to have their views represented but still allow for the possibility. If one views as democratic limits on people’s ability to express and promote their views electorally based on the fact that it produces a result more in line with the will of the larger population, then by extension a total ban on groups that do not represent the will of the people is also democratic, for the same reason.

Izzy, you used argumentum ad absurdum, got called on it, and are now indignantly propping it up. You’re objecting to an argument not being made.

Wanna get back to the subject matter now?

Ignoring Izzy’s perplexing hijack…

The concept of open primaries is a major debate topic here in Washington State. We’ve had open primaries for years, but a recent federal court decision outlawing a similar arrangement in California has put our continued use of them into serious doubt.

The rationale behind the court decision: An open primary is unconstitutional because it violates the political parties’ right to free association. In other words, you’re forcing them to open their doors to anybody who happens along, and you eliminate their ability to choose their own candidates.

The opposing view: The parties aren’t paying for the primary election, the state is, so the state gets to set the rules. If the parties want to pay for the election, they can run it the way they want. Furthermore, the court decision in California included some language about “tradition,” and struck down their open primary as a recent innovation after years of closed (party ballot only) elections. By contrast, here in Washington, we’ve had the open primary for years and years and years.

Me, I’m not a legal scholar, but I really like being able to vote for anybody regardless of affiliation. I’ll be very disappointed if I can’t mix up my ballot in the primary, with a few Ds, a couple of Rs, and maybe an L or G. All based on the individual candidate, not the general platform.

And because we do have an open primary, I can address the crossover phenomenon described in the OP. The various fringe-politics rags (both left and right) ask voters to cross the lines to support unelectable candidates on the opposite side, but in reality this just doesn’t happen. Our slate winds up mostly centrist regardless of any other influences.

The most wacko high-profile candidate we’ve had in recent years was the Republican nominee for governor in 1996, Ellen Craswell. She was a far-right loon, and the only reason she won in the primary was that there were eight hundred other Republicans who split the vote. Lefty voters were overjoyed that she was the nominee, because she was a hardcore fringe freakazoid, but nobody I knew actually checked off her name on the primary ballot.

In other words, it’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the real world.

I find this view reprehensible. Prefering a biased political system simply because it is biased in your favor is selfserving.

I was considering a ( very brief ) switch to the Republican Party to vote for Pat Toomey, the far right primary oponent of Senator Arlen Spector, who I think would be less likely to win a general election. But thinking it over, I just can’t do it. I think Izzy is right about open primaries being a bad idea; a party’s candidate should be selected by party members, not outsiders.

It’s not “biased” if it gives the majority of voters what they want. The majority is in the middle, not on the fringes. If the majority want a radical right-winger, or a radical left-winger, the open primary will produce that result. It’s just that the majority don’t want that.

Cervaise, sounds like there are different breeds of “open” primaries. In Georgia, we can either vote in the Republican primary or the Democratic primary. We can’t vote for both Republican and Democratic candidates in the same primary. So I guess our primary is “open” only in the sense that you don’t have to register as a Republican or a Democrat. You can simply walk in and request either a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot. So I guess our primaries aren’t as open as yours.

I don’t count as a Republican, but I am a moderate conservative who votes Republican more often than not.

I intend to vote in the Democratic primary (assuming Missouri has a primary this year, no money having been appropriated for it yet). I intend to vote for the candidate I would most prefer to be president, though I’m not sure who that is yet (I’m leaning toward Edwards).

Because I am thoroughly disenchanted with President Bush, I will vote for the Democratic candidate in the general election if I can stomach him (her?). Otherwise, I’ll see if the Libertarians have managed to dig up somebody at least moderately sane; if they haven’t, I’ll write in somebody’s name.

But the point of a primary isn’t to give the majority of voters what they want, is it? It’s to give the majority of party members what they want. The point of a primary is to say “This man or woman has our (the state Democratic or Republican, or Socialist Worker, or etc.) endorsement in the upcoming election, and we will allow him to run under our name”. Primaries are ultimately internal mechanisms. The Democrats or Republicans could decide to get rid of them all together, and just have the National or State Committees pick the candidates. That’s what some smaller parties do.

So, if I’m not a Republican or not a Democrat, why should I have any say in the internal policies of those organizations?

Like I said above, the position of the open-primary advocates in Washington State is that the government (i.e. the public) pays for the election, and that therefore it should serve the public’s interest. If the parties want to make it their own function, they can pay for it themselves. I see some validity to this argument, but then like I said before I’m not an impartial observer.

Note that in Washington, this was not a hot-button issue until a few years ago when we added a presidential primary. Formerly, we used the primary cycles for state and local races only, with a single open (all party) ballot, while presidential convention delegates were selected via caucus. A few years ago, the system was changed such that we now have a bizarre Frankensteinian hybrid of primary and caucus, which is so complicated I’m not sure anybody outside the party apparatchik inner circles understands it fully. Anyway, as soon as that happened, we suddenly appeared on the national party organizers’ radar, and they started agitating to end the open primary system.

Me, I’d be perfectly happy if they ditched the presidential primary and went back to the open state-only system plus a presidential caucus.

I like the reasoning offered by Cervaise. If the party wants to control the outcome (or at least control access to the process) then the party needs to foot the bill.