Letter to the editor: about primary voting in Texas

FEBRUARY 21, 2014

When I voted Thursday, February 20, I was told that so far turnout had been about 6 to 1 early voters choosing to vote in the Democratic Primary rather than the Republican. I did not ask to look at the sign-in sheets (the Combination Form) to confirm but do not find that estimate surprising. Based on past election results in our county, we know that this means that many of those who will be voting for Republican candidates in November, as is their prerogative, are voting in our Democratic Primary, seeking to participate in determining who our Democratic nominees for office will be.

I find it objectionable that those folks are voting in my party’s primary. Those Republicans may not be aware that they have made themselves Democrats for this election cycle!  That is how party identification of voters is assigned/determined under Texas law.  The pertinent section of the Texas Election Code says:

Sec. 162.003. AFFILIATION BY VOTING IN PRIMARY. A person becomes affiliated with a political party when the person:
(1) is accepted to vote in the party’s primary election; or
(2) applies for and is provided an early voting or limited primary ballot to be voted by mail.
Sec. 162.004. AFFILIATION PROCEDURE: VOTING AT POLLING PLACE. (a) The signature roster for a primary election must state at the top of each page: “A person commits a criminal offense if the person knowingly votes in a primary election or participates in a convention of a party after having voted in a primary election or participated in a convention of another party during the same voting year.”
(b) An election officer at a primary election polling place shall stamp the party’s name in the party affiliation space of the registration certificate of each voter who presents the voter’s registration certificate and is accepted to vote unless the party name has already been stamped in the space.

Thus those who have voted in the Democratic Primary will commit a Class Three Misdemeanor if they attend a Republican Precinct Convention on March 4 – or if they later vote in a Republican Run-Off Election. Those persons’ Voter Certificates are stamped “Democratic” and they are legally Democrats until December 31, 2014, having affiliated by voting in the Democratic Primary. Of course anyone undergoing a true transfiguration to become a real Democrat is most welcome!

There are better arrangements in other states where when one registers to vote, it is as a Republican, Democrat, minor party, or Independent. One who registers there as a Republican can vote only in Republican Primaries, and the same for Democrats. If one registers as an Independent, that is fine — but you will not be permitted to mess with (vote in) any party’s Primary.  There is another possibility, the “blanket primary” but I don’t like it and this letter is already becoming too long to include explanation of that arrangement. The Blanket Primary has only ever been law in those few radical northwestern states.

 Texas law makes County offices partisan. I am not sure at this time which side I would come down on in a debate as to whether or not these county offices should be filled on a partisan or a non-partisan basis.  But our Texas law is what it is at this time.  I wish those of our friends and neighbors of the Republican persuasion would stay with their party and vote in that Primary, concerning themselves with their party’s nominees, not ours. Wishful thinking I know, but there are plenty of contested statewide and national primary races among Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination.

It may already be too late to have much likelihood of this information influencing any of our Brewster County Republicans to choose to stay out our Brewster County Democrats’ business in this election cycle since Early Voting is already well under way.

The Framers of our U.S. Constitution did not anticipate the development of political parties and parties are not mentioned at any point in that document. However, they did know that the divisions present at the Philadelphia Convention over the extent to which the national government they were creating should be an active force and what the relationship between it and the states would be would persist into the future. They spoke to both topics thoughtfully in the Constitution. But the parties arose quite naturally — the term “autochthonous” — essentially, “from the soil” is most descriptive — very quickly leading to the Jefferson presidency in the election of 1800..

The structuring of our “democratic” or “republican” system of self-government — whichever label you prefer, representing the idea that the wishes of “the people” were to have a meaningful part in the choices of officeholders, was found almost immediately to require the emergence of parties.

 If parties are to mean anything, let’s each work through our own.  Messing with other than your own party is conventionally called “raiding.” No one thought that very nice when the Vikings did it.

Dale Christophersen, Alpine

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