There’s been a buzz over the last few days about Tennessee’s open primary system, in which one may vote in either party’s primary, regardless of political affiliation. I suspect that Davis’ statement, released yesterday, will cause folks to keep talking:

“In this time when many important issues face our nation, it is vital that we have representation in Congress that can effectively lead on issues including energy independence and national security. Last Thursday, in the 1st Congressional District Republican Primary the difference between myself and my Republican challenger was only 460 votes, which is less than 1% of the total votes cast. Due to such a narrow outcome, we feel that it is very important to take the time to consider whether there may have been any irregularities that may have affected the outcome of this primary election.

“It has come to our attention that there may have been some outside groups who sought to improperly influence the Republican primary. The Republican voters of the First Congressional District know that this Congressional seat is too important to do anything but look at this very closely. My campaign believes we should take an opportunity to explore all of the factual information and options.”

If anyone has any information that may help to shed some light on these allegations, or if you have any other information, please contact our campaign office at 423-773-8861.

“Outside groups” seeking to “improperly” influence the primary is certainly reason to question the open primary system. The argument goes, if you’re not a Republican, and you don’t like one of the Republicans running in a primary, then drum up support for your Democrat, and let the Republicans decide on their own who they want representing them. It does seem unfair that Democrats are able to pick the Republican nominee and vice versa.

In Tennessee (like most states), however, Independents have a very difficult time getting on the ballot. Without the support (i.e., money) of one of the major parties, it is virtually impossible to get your name on the ballot under a third party umbrella. So, with this bias against anyone running on a third party ticket, many Independents run under the name of one of the two major parties – simply because it’s easier. So, in a closed primary system, what are Independents to do?

Until we have equal ballot access for all political parties – not just Republicans and Democrats – I think that the open primary system is the best way to go. Although it does cause problems when folks “cross over” and vote in the other guy’s primary, I don’t think the solution is immediately closing the primary system. A move to an open primary system would have to include a process of making it easier for third party candidates to get on the ballot.

This, however, would bring up problems such as what parties would “count” and how folks like me would choose to register (Republican? Libertarian? Constitution Party? None of the Above?).

So, while a closed primary system has it’s merits, there are a lot of ballot access problems that would need to be ironed out before I could support such a move in Tennessee.