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Open primaries

Posted: May 31, 2011 1:01 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2011 5:00 a.m.

South Carolina Republican officials don’t like a ruling made by U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs allowing open voting in primaries, the system that’s used in the state now and has been for decades. Under that plan, voters can choose which party’s primary they want to participate in from year to year. But lawyers for the GOP are asking Childs to examine whether that might be unconstitutional. Childs, in her earlier ruling, had said that if Republicans want to exclude people from their process, they could choose a new method such as conventions or petitions.

We’ve long lamented the growing trend of partisanship in this country, especially in Washington but also at the state level. Limiting primary participation would be another step in that chain, binding voters to one party or another and shifting the tide even further toward partisan fighting. As it is, voters can look at the fields of candidates offered by both parties, pick the candidate or candidates they like best and participate in the primary of those candidates. If a run-off occurs in that party’s primary, voters who participated in another party’s primary cannot “cross over” and vote in the run-off. What could be fairer?

Fears that “outsiders” are taking part in a Republican primary in an attempt to subvert the system are overblown. Most voters are drawn to candidates they want to support and aren’t motivated by a huge, organized effort to block the nomination of a candidate from a party they don’t support. That’s just so much baloney that the GOP is advancing.

For decades following the Civil War, South Carolina was a one-party state, and it belonged to the Democrats. Since the 1960s, it’s been trending Republican and the GOP now has a solid upper hand. But the state doesn’t need to go back to a one-party system, and the GOP is reaching too far in its request. We hope Judge Childs affirms her original ruling and lets the state retain its open primaries.

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