I’m planning on breaking a state law this week.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett was in Jackson last week speaking at the Downtown Rotary Club and checking in with various county election commissions on this end of the state, and I asked him about the conversation that’s happened in Madison County the first few days of early voting.
Independent County Commission candidate Olivia Abernathy voted in a primary in the first hour of the first day, and within a couple hours after that, the Madison County Republican Party posted a state law that states – according to the interpretation of many within the local party chapter – that no one outside the membership of either major political party should be able to vote in a primary.
Hargett essentially repeated that interpretation on Wednesday, saying the parties don’t have to have a primary, but if they do, that is for the membership to select their nominees for each political office.
The Republicans have logic behind their reasoning in their feelings.
They’re in the process of trying to select – as a party – the best candidate to represent them in the general election.
There’s a concern locally about members of the Democrat party crossing over and voting for the candidates they feel are weakest to give their candidates the alleged best chance at success in August. And considering there are no contested Democrat primaries locally, that’s a reasonable concern.
But there’s a problem with the way the Republicans want to address this concern, and that’s to tell everyone who’s not a bona fide member of either party to not vote and not allow anyone in either party to cross the party lines.
Hargett’s metaphor to use to make his point on Wednesday was that the North Side football team wouldn’t gather in a huddle before its next play and allow players from Jackson Central-Merry to join in their huddle because JCM wasn’t having a huddle before that particular play and were looking for a huddle to be a part of.
Here’s the problem with that – JCM and North Side are playing a game where one team wins the game and the other team loses.
Yes, Republicans and Democrats are playing a game and trying to win and forcing the other one to lose, but where a football game affects very little outside the stadium, the results of this game have too many effects for independent voters like myself to leave it up to our local party members to let them decide who we have to select to govern in August.
So that’s why I’m breaking the law this week. Or am I?
One paragraph of the law specifies that the voter at the time pledges allegiance to that party at the time he or she casts that vote.
I know on a national level, I’m tired of the trend we’ve been in for most of my voting life since 2000 where every four years we elect a President, watch the nomination process that includes state primaries through the spring and get to November and select the lesser of two evils.
I don’t want to get tired of selecting lesser evils at the local level because we shouldn’t get to that point.
I as an independent voter and a citizen of the United States have the right to have my voice heard, and there’s nothing in the Constitution that says “everyone has the right to vote, but the ones who are members of political parties to get vote earlier and more often.”
So to avoid the lesser of two evils for my county commissioners, county mayors, school board members and judges, if there is a primary, to disqualify me from being a part of selecting the nominees simply because I have no desire to commit to a party and its entire platform goes against my basic voting rights.
But if there is a candidate that I support in the primary, then by casting a vote, I am pledging allegiance to him or her. Which means, there’s a pledge of allegiance to the party of that primary that candidate is in.
So will I be violating state law this week? According to the Republican Party, yes. But actually, no I’m not.
But if anyone feels the need to prosecute me, I look forward to that day in court.
Because then we’ll truly see a precedent set if this is voter suppression or not and if the judge is committed to the country’s electoral and judicial process more than party affiliation.
Brandon Shields is the editor of The Jackson Sun. Reach him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.
This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: I plan to violate state law this week | Opinion