Should North Carolina go Mississippi in primary elections?
As we head toward tomorrow's conclusion in the 6th Congressional District runoff between Republicans Phil Berger Jr. and Mark Walker, the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth are still heard in Mississippi.
There, you recall, long-time Sen. Thad Cochran held off Tea Party upstart Chris McDaniel in a Republican runoff in the strangest way -- by courting Democratic voters.
That's right. Mississippi has open primaries. Democrats can vote with Republicans, and the other way around.
Supposedly, Democrats can't vote in a Republican runoff if they first voted in the Democratic primary, but Mississippi seems to be somewhat careless about enforcing that rule.
"We know double voting exists," Jackson Clarion-Ledger columnist Sam R. Hall wrote Saturday. "When the counting is done, there are likely to be hundreds of examples of voters who voted in both the Democratic primary and the Republican primary runoff. However, that will not be enough for any judge to call a new election."
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To that extent, McDaniel has a beef.
Except, of course, there's no way to know for whom those Dem double-dippers voted. They might have gone for him!
Probably not. Cochran shamelessly, desperately courted them to save his political career. He told Democrats -- especially black Democrats -- that, since it was likely a Republican would win in November, better him than McDaniel. They made a logical choice.
So, what about here?
We have semi-open primaries. Unaffiliated voters can choose to vote in either party primary.
I am an unaffiliated voter and voted in the Republican primary on May 6, and then voted early in the runoff.
Are you Republicans OK with that? Or do you think a Republican primary should be open only to Republicans?
I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to keep me out. After all, I don't want to be one of you (or one of those Democrats, either). Why should you let me have a say in who wins your party's congressional nomination?
It's possible -- though we won't know unless someone does detailed exit polling -- that unaffiliated voters could alter the outcome.
Numbers here indicate that 35 percent of the district's registered voters are Republicans and 24 percent are unaffiliated. Potentially, a big chunk of Republican primary voters might not be Republicans at all, but indys.
Suppose the Republicans went for Berger but the unaffiliated voters went strongly enough for Walker to give him the win? Would that seem unfair? Or, would it maybe be a good thing for Republicans by indicating Walker might be a stronger general election candidate?
Yeah, who knows?
Well, what about a Mississippi-stye open primary system?
Look, 40 percent of 6th District registered voters are Democrats. They outnumber Republicans. Yet, Republicans Howard Coble and Pat McCrory won 61 percent of the vote in the district in 2012; Mitt Romney won nearly 58 percent. Clearly, a lot of people who are not Republicans voted for these Republicans.
What does that mean? Maybe it argues in favor of more open primaries. If around 60 percent of the district's voters are going to vote Republican in November, wouldn't it make sense to let them help choose the Republican nominees in May, even if they don't want to register as Republicans?
I admit I would not go that far. I think the Mississippi system is screwy. It invites mischief. If Democrats and Republicans vote in each others' primaries, chances are they're trying to boost the worst candidates, not the best (although the Cochran-McDaniel contest was an exception; Democratic voters were truly frightened by McDaniel.)
I like the North Carolina system, but that's because it gives me the best of all options. I can maintain my independence from the political parties and still vote in the primary of my choice.
I would not like it, but I would understand, if Democrats and Republicans decided they didn't want to be even that open anymore.
Contact editorial writer Doug Clark at (336) 373-7039 and dgclark@News-Record.com.