Voters must make party primary choice

Published 6:00 pm Friday, July 29, 2011

In Mississippi, it has always been that ifsomeone wants to vote in a primary for local, state and federalelections, they are forced to choose which party they are going tovote for before casting their ballots.

    “You have to vote Republican or Democrat straight across theboard,” Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins said.

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    When Mississippians go to the primaries to vote, they are askedwhether they would like a Republican or Democrat ballot. Then theychoose from the candidates running in only one of the parties.

    If someone wanted to vote Republican in the District Fivesupervisor race, for example, and then vote Democrat in thesheriff’s race, they could not do that, Watkins explained.

    “This is our closed primary system,” she said.

    In an open primary, voters of any party affiliation may vote for acandidate running to represent any party. Republican and Democraticcandidates alike would be on the same ballot, and the top two wouldadvance, Watkins said.

    “The advantage as a taxpayer of having an open party primarysystem,” Watkins said, “is that it would save the state millions ofdollars.”

    Watkins explained in the closed system, money has to be spent ontwo sets of poll workers and two sets of ballots.

    “We’re basically having to pay for two sets of everything,” shesaid. “And we have to pay for more ballots than needed so that wedon’t run out for each party. Elections get really expensive.

    “If we’re one of the poorest states in the nation, and we’re tryingto save money any way that we can, then changing to an open systemis a good way to save,” she continued.

    Regardless of what people think about open versus closed primaries,or Republican versus Democrat for that matter, Watkins urged peopleto look at sample ballots before going out to vote.

    “Become familiar with it so you don’t have to stand there trying todecide,” she said. “It helps with the backlog of people when youcan just walk up, hit the names you want and be done.”