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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Proposal for Voter Registration by Party

South Carolina, like Mississippi, is among the 21 states that do not register voters by party. There have been past efforts to enact party registration in the Palmetto State, and eight state representatives, all Republicans, have introduced a new bill for party registration.

I seriously doubt that this bill will become law. Even if it does, however, all voters will still have their choice of either party's primary, as South Carolina law mandates that primaries be open to all voters. There is a movement within that state's Republican Party to close GOP primaries, but no lawsuit has been brought against the open primary law.

Mississippi's Democrats, of course, recently pursued a federal lawsuit against our similar open primary law. District judge Allen Pepper ruled the law unconstitutional, but the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the case on procedural grounds.

The purpose of party registration is to identify voters' party preferences, and it's the most practical method for doing so. Louisiana, for example, has had party registration since 1916. The only other former Confederate states that register voters by party are Florida and North Carolina. When almost all elections were decided in the Democratic primary, there really was no need for party registration.

In the last two decades, the only states to enact party registration have been Rhode Island and Utah. In both states, all voters already registered were deemed to be independents, and the only ones who had to re-register were those who wanted to affiliate with a party. Independents in both states have their choice of voting in either party's primary; consequently, the largest number of registered voters in each of the two states is independents.

Two other states where there have recently been unsuccessful attempts to enact party registration are Idaho and Virginia.

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