As has been discussed in previous columns, the next opportunity for Edgefield County to vote is in the primary elections on Tuesday, June 12th. That is elections (plural), because South Carolina now has open primaries, and all registered voters are allowed to participate in either party’s primary but not both, regardless of whether they consider themselves Republicans, Independents, or Democrats. Voting in the primary does not commit you as to how you cast your ballot in November; it merely expresses your right to help determine who will be on that ballot.
Having had a 30-year military career, my wife Carol and I have been voters in several jurisdictions before returning home to Edgefield County over a decade ago. Not all have open primaries like ours. The advantage is this. In South Carolina, one party predominates at the state level: every elected statewide office is currently held by a Republican, even though in the last Presidential election Republicans only carried 55% of the presidential vote. If we required voter registration by party and limited primary election participation accordingly, and if slightly over half of the Republicans supported a particular candidate for a state office – say 30% among that 55% — then that person would become the Republican party’s nominee and likely would be elected. This would be the case even if the other 25% of Republicans as well as the 45% non-Republicans – 70% of the electorate overall – preferred the same, different candidate. With the current system, everybody could choose to vote in the Republican primary and ensure that the voters’ overall preference became the nominee, and hence would likely be elected.
We in South Carolina used to require party membership to vote in primary elections. That was before the Civil Rights Act when most black citizens were discouraged if not prevented from voting, and the predominant party was the Democratic Party. The result was too often a politician whose appeal was limited to just a portion of South Carolinians, and whose agenda just needed those single-party voters to support him (it was always “him”) in the primary. Nobody else’s vote would matter. We don’t want to go back to that.
On June 12th, the Republican primary ballot includes this question: “Do you believe that voters should have the option to choose to affiliate with a political party when they register to vote or change their voter registration in South Carolina?” You can see where that is leading. If you plan to vote in the Republican primary, or you haven’t decided which primary election to participate in, I encourage you to vote in the Republican primary and to vote “NO” on that question.
And while you’re voting, take a look at the candidate list. Decide which of those listed most closely aligns with your personal politics and vote for him or her, regardless of whether you plan to support them in November. You have the right to choose who will end up on that November ballot, and the party primary is the time to choose. Get out and vote on June 12th!