Closed Tennessee Primaries Possibly On the Way

A bill in this year’s Tennessee General Assembly would, if enacted into law, require people register with a political party before they vote in any Tennessee primaries.

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, sponsors the bill.

According to TNJ: On the Hill, Holt’s bill advanced on a voice vote in the Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee Wednesday.

Not all Republicans, however, are reportedly keen on the idea.

“Former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam called closing primaries ‘a silly proposal,’ arguing that if the change had been made earlier, it would have been much harder for Republicans to get to the position of power they’re in today,” TNJ: On the Hill reported.

“Gov. Bill Lee, who won the Republican nomination amid record turnout in last year’s gubernatorial primary, was similarly dubious about the proposal, telling reporters that ‘the current system we have is working.’”

According to the website, anyone in Tennessee can vote in a party primary if they are affiliated with it. In other cases, the voter must declare allegiance to that political party in a primary in which they intend to vote.

“The law has been interpreted to mean that seeking a party ballot is a declaration of allegiance. In practice, many Tennesseans choose to vote in whichever primary is more compelling, meaning their allegiance and affiliation may last for as little as a single election,” TNJ: On the Hill reported.

“Supporters of closed primaries argue that under the current system, crossover voters could help a weaker candidate win the nomination, who would then have a harder time prevailing in the general election. Another refrain is that open primaries give moderate candidates a better chance of winning primaries.”

Nine states have closed primary systems, the website reported.

Also as TNJ: On the Hill reported, Tennessee Democrats tried to close the primaries after doing well politically in the 1970s, but Republicans thwarted those plans.

This time, as the website went on to say, the roles have reversed.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]








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3 Thoughts to “Closed Tennessee Primaries Possibly On the Way”

  1. Cannoneer2

    Tennessee political parties should bear the entire cost of holding a primary.

  2. Norman

    I encourage everyone to listen to the debate in committee. It was very informative. Click on HB1273, the first bill heard in committee. Too many TN voters have the misconception that our primaries are open — that any voter can vote in any primary. That is not true. Primaries are private events for party members only. They are not for everyone. Crossover voter can be likened to the members of the Kiwanis club crashing the election and voting for the Presiden of the the Lions club. Not only is it immoral to crossover vote, it is illegal. Current TN law states that only bona fide members of a party or voters who are giving their allegiance to the party and intend to affiliate with the party may participate in that party’s election [ T.C.A. § 2-7-115(b) ]. T.C.A. 2-19-107 makes it clear that it is a Class D Felony for a person to participate in an election who is not entitled to vote in that election. The bill will allow the parties to have more control over their own primaries and keep out those who are not affiliated with the party. It also has several provisions to educate voters on the current law with signs posted at primary elections and by requiring that voters sign affidavits saying they understand the law.

    1. 83ragtop50

      It may be the law but it is certainly not enforced. When I go to vote in a primary (which I do each time one is held) I am simply asked by the election official which ballot I want. There is no way of proving that I am a member of that political party because there is no requirement to register to be a member of either party. That needs to be changed by law… in other words there needs to be closed primaries.