Tennessee GOP wants to require party registration to vote in primaries

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican Party’s state executive committee met over the weekend to re-elect Scott Golden as chairman and to make several policy recommendations to the GOP-controlled General Assembly. They include a call to require party registration in order to vote in primaries. The proposal comes on the heels of 792,888 people voting the Republican gubernatorial primary in August.

Democrats oppose the move.

“No Tennessean should be required to join a political party in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, including independent voters,” Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said in a statement. “And as the share of independent voters continues to increase in Tennessee, this move would suppress them from making their voices heard in the primary process.”

Here’s the release from the state GOP:

Nashville, Tenn. — The Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee voted today to approve the following resolutions urging the 111th General Assembly to update Tennessee election law.

Required Signatures for Public Office
This resolution asks the 111th General Assembly to increase the number of signatures required to run for public office to be equal to the level of office being sought.

Timing for Special Elections
This resolution asks the 111th General Assembly to create a requirement for a special election to be called in the case of a vacancy within forty five (45) days of the general election.

Tennessee Voter Registration
This resolution asks the 111th General Assembly to include a question regarding political party affiliation on Tennessee voter registration forms as well as requiring party registration in order to vote in a party’s primary election.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden released the following statement:

“These common-sense resolutions will help maintain the integrity of our elections and elect the best-qualified Republican candidates to federal, state, and local offices. We ask that the General Assembly consider and adopt the changes put forward by the State Executive Committee.”


30 Responses to Tennessee GOP wants to require party registration to vote in primaries

  • James Williams says:

    Mary Mancini is really obtuse. Republicans choose Republicans, Democrats choose Democrats and Indioendents can choose Independents in their respective primaries. Then, anyone can cross over and vote however they choose in the general election.

    This will prevent Democrats from choosing the Republican nominee and vice versa.

    • MarLE says:

      What is the proposed timeline for registration? I can imagine people being turned away b/c for the first time in their life they had to register by party. Can you imagine the “voter suppression” outcry? The time frame for registering (or changing registration) will be a critical issue.

      • JAMES B GARRETT says:

        MarLE, the question of timing is important. The answer comes in two parts. Part 1: For those voters registering for the first time within the State – they will be asked to complete a “Party Affiliation for Primary Voting” form at the time they first register. The choices will be Democrat, Republican, or Unaffiliated. Part 2: For those voters who are already registered when the law change takes effect – the first time they vote in a primary election they will be asked to sign a “Party Affiliation for Primary Voting” form which will then become their party affiliation until they go to the election commission and make a formal change at some point in the future if they wish. In this manner there will be NO voter suppression or disenfranchisement.

        The time frame for registering or changing your registration will not change from the current standard of no changes are permitted within 30 days prior to an election.

        • MarLE says:

          And you don’t think that requiring a person (elderly, disabled, etc) to go to a single location, the election commission office at least 30 days ahead of time, will be seen as a significant barrier? Voting is a right….not like all those other things we jump through a thousand bureaucratic hoops in order to do. Driving, flying on an airplane etc etc etc. In some states where party affiliation IS required (and the information publicly available) businessmen choose not to register for practical reasons. At any rate…..you will hear many voices raising the issue of this being an undo burden.

    • Betty J. Ziesel says:

      James Williams, agree with you…it’s about time primaries are closed! There are far too many “crossover” elected politicians now that don’t deserve to be there. Way to go to the NEW SEC and Scott Golden! Thank you!

    • Susan says:

      Not that simple. Some counties have no democratic or independent candidates to choose from. Therefore in order for people who may not always vote R or D to have any voice primaries must remain open.

  • Norma Shirk says:

    This is a clear attempt to circumvent the democratic process by placing hurdles in the way of voters. This same political party has already passed voter suppression laws in the form of voter ID requirements that masquerade as protection against voter fraud. If a political party has to rig the electoral field to stay in power, it’s a good indication that they’ve lost their way regarding Constitutional rights and liberties and over-stayed their welcome.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I have always had a low opinion of the intelligence of people who constantly vote for liberal Democrats other than those who simply want to steal from the productive members of our society in order to subsidize the unproductive, most especially themselves. The latter know exactly what they are doing in giving their votes to the party of confiscation and government power. I believe, however, that Norma has an even lower level of respect for those who vote Democrat. To say that showing a valid government issued ID is “. . .placing a hurdle in the way of voters” or is a form of “voter suppression” is obliquely saying that a sizeable number of Democratic voters are simply incapable of functioning in our society or she is looking for any reason to oppose Republican attempts to keep our elections fair by doing everything possible to counteract the shenanigans that the Democrats engage in during every election.

  • Leslie Parsley says:

    Another voter suppression attempt on the part of a bunch of lying scoundrels.

  • David Thomas says:

    If Party registration is required then the Party requiring it should pay for the cost of holding their own Primary. Tax dollars should not be spent for the benefit of any one Party! If all people are entitled to vote, then I have no problem, but I do not want my tax dollars being used to give subsidize any political party that requires “registration”.

    • Cannoneer2 says:

      Totally agree

    • James White says:

      David is correct. The Fayette county republicans decided we need a party primary and forced it upon us. The results was more cost and same people were elected, more or less. Fayette is a a republican county and the primary was a WASTE of our tax dollars.
      I agree, make them pay for it… But that will not happen.

      • Kevin Powers says:

        That is incorrect. The money has always been in the budget for a primary. It just hasn’t been utilized for a primary until this year. State law requires counties have the money in the budget for a primary. Fayette County simply chose to utilize the funds available to them.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      All people are entitled to vote. If you are left of center you simply register as a Democrat and vote in the Democratic primary. Surely some day the Republicans will not be as popular as they are today and voting in the Democratic primary in Tennessee will be worth the effort. Those who are right of center will simply register as a Republican and vote in that primary. The overwhelming majority of voters know if the are one or the other. For those few who don’t perhaps they should sit down and analyze their views and attitudes and find out. If they do so, they will probably become much more rational voters to the betterment of us all. If for some bizarre reason you choose not to register by party, or you are a member of a third party you are not a Republican or a Democrat so you shouldn’t be voting in their primaries but you certainly shouldn’t dilute the vote of those of us, who constitute a majority of voters, who identify with one of the major parties.

      Now I know, David, that you may be a liberal who realizes that voting in the Democratic Party outside of Davidson County and Memphis is usually a waste of time so you want to vote for the most liberal candidate running in the Republican primary before you vote Democrat in the general election. It isn’t as though the Republican establishment doesn’t value you as valuable ally who is so important to their efforts to make sure that the Republican Party remains nothing more than the political wing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce/Business Round Table because they certainly do. I am sure, however, that you can understand that we conservatives are very tired of this game that serves to so often defeat conservative candidates so we will continue to do everything we can to bring this game to an end.

    • JAMES B GARRETT says:

      David is totally wrong. Primary elections have always been a PARTY function. As a young country it was the parties who paid for their primaries. It was the Democrats out of California who pushed the need for states to pay for primary elections. Experience has taught us there are many reasons why state funded primary elections are necessary. You may want to review your history books for some background on this subject. You may also want to study up on subject of Tammany Hall and William M. “Boss” Tweed. Also you may want to review a 1901 Oregon Court decision in ‘Ladd v. Holmes’ or a 1907 California Supreme Court decision in ‘Katz v. Fitzgerald’ or the United States Supreme Court’s decision in ‘Bullock v. Carter’ decision.

  • Silence Dogood says:

    Norma, Leslie, David: Can one of you address the staunch Republican voting for a throwaway Democrat candidate (no chance of winning because of ???) in a Primary? All I see from your responses so far are “dog whistles” we should let illegal immigrants vote, btw. You clearly mean it, so say it. Quit hinting at it.

  • June landrum says:

    This has been tried at intervals for yrs. never passed all those times and will not this time. I say the gen assembly will throw it out.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      This will be a good test of whether Glen Casada’s administration will be one in which conservatives will increase their influence in the Republican Party or will the centrists/tepid conservatives who run the party maintain their control. By all means, just by moving the legislation through committees and bringing it up for a floor vote the voters will be able to see who are the strong conservatives in the Republican caucus and who are playacting as “conservatives” only when running for office thus giving us a chance to get rid of them in the next Republican primary. For that alone the Republican state executive committee’s vote is great news for conservatives.

      • James White says:

        Unfortunately Conservatives do not win in the Republican Primary, only NeoCon ALEC controlled Establishment Republicans win.

        • Donna Locke says:

          This is one of the reasons we need for Independents, possibly divided into two groups, to become a real force in this state. Conveniently for the status quo, the system has been set up to thwart this.

    • JAMES B GARRETT says:

      June, we thank you and Bill for listening to Lamar Alexander and voting against the closed primary resolution in the SEC in 2015.

  • Cannoneer2 says:

    As I said on the Star, in the general election, I would like to see party affiliations other than Democrat and Republican listed by a candidate’s name, and a “None of the Above” box for each individual election. I’m not holding my breath on either, though.

  • Eddie White says:

    This discussion makes me chuckle a little bit. As a kid growing up in Tennessee, it was the minority Republicans who were accused( and probably correctly) of voting in the Democratic primary to try and elect the weakest Democrat to run against the Republican nominee. It was about the only way the Republicans had a chance to win an election. Of course the 1970 election of Winfield Dunn and Bill Brock finally began to change that. It was the early beginning of what was to become a Republican majority.

  • Donna Locke says:

    The Republicans are trying to require gathering 1,000 signatures or something before a candidate can run for office. That and the laws and other efforts that make it hard to impossible for real choices to be on the ballot are the real problem. This should be stopped.

    The Republicans should close the primaries, but there should be runoffs, so we don’t have people winning a general election with thirty-something percent of the vote as Republican nominee Andy Ogles did recently in Maury County when the actual Republican incumbent and other Republicans had to run as independents because the GOP rigged their nominee selection process.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      By all means, close the primaries and let’s have runoffs, but the present requirements to get on the ballot are absurdly easy. What is it, 25 signatures and a $25 fee? To run for a statewide office? Sorry but there are too many poor souls who get some sort of thrill to see their name on the ballot. That’s why we have such absurdly long ballots with so many names of people who usually have no possibility and/or desire to get elected. There are many ways to accomplish it, but we simply should make it more difficult to get on the ballot.


    Phil Valentine on WTN radio has a term for listeners who only hear or only use selected parts of his commentaries – he calls them Van Gogh listeners. Donna, you are correct. The resolution passed Saturday does recommend requiring 1,000 signatures for certain candidates. Donna, where you become a Van Gogh responder is you fail to mention just what candidates that would apply to – it is not your local councilman, Mayor, School Board member, Registrar of Deeds, Court Clerk, County Commissioner, Dog Catcher, Sheriff, Constable, any County or Municipal office holder. No, it is not any of them because the recommendation for them is still 25 signatures. Nor is it your Representative for State House or for State Senate. Nor is it for your Representative to the U.S. House of Representatives for their recommendations are 75, 250 and 500 respectively. The 1,000 recommendation is for only two offices – Governor and U.S. Senator -both statewide offices. Both offices require presence in every county of this State. Governor-elect Lee received over 790,000 votes and Marsha received just over 720,000. Do you think it would have been hard for them to get 12 people in each county to say they – the mighty dozen – want them to be their choice. There were twelve candidates running for Governor who did not receive 1000 votes total in the actual election. Why would you seriously even consider them to be your Governor or Senator?

    • Donna Locke says:

      James, I know that. I read a news report about that. I did not write the entire report here. Twenty-five to forty signatures should be enough for any office. More than that and it looks like the equivalent of a “literacy” test. Speaking of which . . .

  • David Collins says:

    Prior to 1972, the political parties did pay for the primary elections. Candidates were required to pay a qualifying fee [the fee varied in amount depending on the office being sought, i.e. statewide offices cost substantially more than local office]. In a comprehensive election law overhaul in 1972 the onus of paying for party primaries was taken out of political party control and all elections came under the authority of the county election commissions. There had been allegations of “monkey-business” in the conduct of primaries in some counties and court decisions in other states appeared to be headed in the direction striking the filing fee requirements as being unconstitutional [compared to a form of poll taxes].

  • Fritz says:

    As an independent who routinely votes Republican I will be changing my vote to the party that does not exclude me from the electoral process. I wish the Republican party the best of luck without my vote or financial support.

    • Betty J. Ziesel says:

      FRITZ – You say you routinely vote republican, but you now will change … Ever hear the phrase “Biting your nose off to spite your face”?

      EDDIE WHITE hits the nail on the head with his astute comments about how, 30+ years ago, it was the republicans that were doing the crossover voting in order to obtain a majority in the state. Bizarre (Kind of brilliant, when you think about it.) the lengths used to change the entire face of the state from democrat controlled to republican controlled. What’s even more bizarre is the elite politicians keep using these tactics, but only to keep/elect the ones they can control in office. This state, as is the country, is swimming with middle of the road politicians that have made a career out of unwisely spending our tax dollars while getting rich. It is time to drain the swamp!

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