In Tennessee, voters don’t have to register with a political party to vote in primaries. They can choose to receive either a Republican or Democratic ballot. Republican lawmakers are trying to change that — worrying voting rights groups.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, would require voters to register with a political party to vote in that party’s primary. He worries current law makes it too easy for voters to switch back and forth.
“Would it be fair for myself and other Republicans — maybe the local Republican party — to say, ‘Hey, our candidate is a shoo-in. He’s the only one on the ballot, or she. Let’s go and vote for this weaker Democrat candidate because our Republican candidate has a better chance at beating that candidate’?”
Doggett did not provide a specific example of an election where this scenario had occurred.
Guy Cammilleri, a voting rights advocate, says it’s unlikely that a group would be able to sway an election.
“I’m certain that that probably does happen. But I’m almost certain that that doesn’t influence the outcome of probably most General Assembly and congressional elections in this state,” said Cammilleri.
Cammilleri says closing primaries in a solidly red state could also lead to more extreme candidates getting elected.
The measure passed its first House committee. The Senate version hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing.