MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama is one of 15 states with open primaries, meaning you don’t need to register as a Republican or Democrat to vote, but that could be changing.
The Alabama GOP will vote on a resolution Saturday on whether to recommend closed primaries to the legislature. This comes after a series of contested races stemming from the May primary, including one decided by a single vote.
GOP leaders have expressed concern that Democrats are interfering in the election process by voting in Republican primaries, and say a closed primary could prevent that.
Secretary of State John Merrill says such a system, however, could reduce voter participation. Last primary saw a 23% turnout.
“Now if you register as a Republican or if you register as a Democrat, your party ballot will show up on your information whenever you check in, and that may deter some people from participating because they’ll know that they’ve been identified as Republicans or identified as Democrats and some people are uncomfortable with that,” Merrill said.
Merrill says parties can establish their own rules but the legislature decides on election administration.
Political Analyst Steve Flowers says he doesn’t expect lawmakers to make changes.
“The legislature’s the one that’s got to do that, and they’re accountable to the taxpayers and the state dollars rather than some right-wing political person, so they’re not going to do it,” Flowers said.
Flowers says requiring voters to pick a party could exclude some from important local races.
“Let’s say in Jefferson County most of the local officials are Democrats. Well if you exclude anybody who’s voting in a Republican primary from voting in a Democratic primary, you’re excluding half the population — they can’t vote,” Flowers said.
Flowers says if the party passes the resolution it would still need to be brought as a bill, passed by the legislature and eventually approved by the U.S. Justice Department in order to take effect.