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Alabama is one of 15 states that do not ask voters to register with a political party ahead of a voting in a primary. Some Republicans argue it’s time to change that.
The Alabama Republican Party will take a vote this weekend on whether to support a party registration requirement for primaries, also known as having a closed primary. Passage of the resolution would signal support for the idea, but the Alabama Legislature would have to enact legislation to make such a change.
“I very much expect it to pass,” Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl said of the party resolution. The state GOP approved a similar resolution in 2016.
Currently, voters casting ballots in a primary election in Alabama simply tell a poll worker which ballot they want. Wahl said there is growing concern about possible cross-over voting. Republicans should be electing Republican nominees, he said.
“I think this is an issue that has been highlighted by this election cycle. We’ve seen so much frustration from candidates, voters, as well as the members of the Republican Party, towards Democrats purposely trying to affect the outcome of our Republican primaries,” Wahl said.
Wahl said the resolution endorses the idea of a closed primary, but doesn’t recommend any specific method. States have different rules regarding primary voting and party registration.
Only nine states have completely closed primaries where a voter seeking to vote in a closed primary must first be a registered party member, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states have partially open or partially closed primaries, where unaffiliated voters may be able to vote in a primary or where voters can change their party affiliation on primary day.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, a Democratic representative from Huntsville, said a closed GOP primary could lead to more extreme candidates.
“From an Alabama standpoint, I think that’s dangerous because you end up getting the most extreme views in a primary,” Daniels said.
But he said that could create more opportunity in general elections for the Democratic nominees who would appeal to more moderate voters.