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Party Girl?



©manley099/Istockphoto.com

No more, ever since I got mad at Sarah Palin four years ago and decided I didn’t want to belong to a political party anymore. I marched myself down to the Greenwich Town Hall and signed up as an Independent. Mistake. Independent is a real party in Connecticut, so it was a party-to-party switch and required three months to become official. By then I woke up. What I had meant to be was Unaffiliated. So I marched back down to Town Hall and with the stroke of a pen made myself Unaffiliated. No three-month wait. Not even a three-minute wait.

Of course, Unaffiliated folks can’t vote in party primaries like the U. S. Senatorial primaries for both Republicans and Democrats on August 14. But unaffiliateds know that as long as they get down to Town Hall by noon the day before the primary, they can join a party of their choice right on the spot, go vote in that party’s primary the next day, and come back whenever to re-register as Unaffiliated.

Now let’s say you’re a Democrat today (August 1) who wants to vote in the Republican primary (August 14). You can’t. You can become Unaffiliated but it would be too late to re-register as a Republican in time to vote in the primary. The centralized voter registration database, applying the three-month criteria, will know you were a Democrat less than three months ago. Why don’t we have open primaries like California that allow every registered voter to vote in any of them? Because in 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that primaries are a function of the parties, not public elections, so the parties make the rules in each state.

“Unaffiliateds have the maximum amount of flexibility,” notes A.V. Harris of the Secretary of State Elections Department. And they can make a big splash, too, as we saw in the 2006 Lieberman-Lamont contest for U.S. Senate when close to 40,000 Unaffiliated voters switched to Democrat in order to vote in the primary. How much energy you expend on all this depends on your passion for picking the right person to represent you in Washington. Maybe trotting back and forth to Town Hall sounds silly (not to mention it might drive the Registrar of Voters crazy). But then and again, it could be a matter of principle.

P.S You can always register by mail if you’re not in a hurry.                               

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