No one registers to vote in this state as a Republican, Democrat or independent. Tennessee is an open primary state, which means voters can choose the partisan primary they wish to vote in on Election Day. So when you hear someone say, “I’m a registered Democrat, so I can’t vote in the March 6 Republican Primary,” be sure to tell them that’s simply not the case.
They may choose not to vote in a particular primary because of their closely held partisan beliefs, but they are not barred from doing so by any preconditions set forth by their voter registration. State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, wants to change that. He is sponsoring legislation that would close the primary process in Tennessee. This is a very bad idea, and one that many in his own party have vigorously and correctly opposed in recent years.
If the current law is changed, voters in Tennessee would be given a ballot for the party’s primary they have identified with on their voter registration. Tennesseans without a partisan affiliation would not be allowed to participate in either primary.
Closing the state’s primary system would be very detrimental in areas like Upper East Tennessee, where most races for local, state and federal offices are decided in the Republican Primary.
Members of the executive committee of the Tennessee Republican Party are very much against changing the current law. They see no reason to disenfranchise independent voters who are often predisposed to vote Republican.
Our question to Hill is: Why does he want to disenfranchise voters?