With the Ides of March fast approaching, South Carolina’s “Republican-controlled” House of Representatives has utterly failed to move the needle on substantive election reform. After conspiring to oust the former director of the S.C. Election Commission (SCVotes.gov) last spring, there was an expectation GOP lawmakers would take concrete steps this year to firm up public faith in the integrity of state’s ballot box.
Lamentably, that is not happening …
GOP politicians are doing nothing to make voting in South Carolina more secure … nor are they doing anything to impose accountability over local election commissions which have proven track records of irregular or illegal conduct.
Last week, there was something of a “show debate” in the S.C. House on one of the so-called “election reform” bills making its way through the chamber. The legislation – H. 4919 – offers some modest ballot security enhancements (including a ban on notoriously insecure ballot drop boxes) but does nothing in the grand scheme of things to materially improve electoral integrity.
During debate over this bill – which ultimately passed the House by a unanimous 114-0 vote – an amendment was put forward which would have required South Carolina citizens to register as members of either the “Republican” or Democratic parties prior to casting their ballots in these partisan primaries.
Such a “closed primary” system has been a goal of GOP activists for years given the increasingly reddish tint of the Palmetto State’s electorate. Supporters of a closed primary system argue it keeps primary elections “pure” – preventing Democrats and independents from having a say in the selection of GOP nominees.
And … vice versa? Hmmm …
Opponents argue closed primaries suppress voter turnout, effectively disenfranchising broad swaths of the electorate in violation of the “one person, one vote” principle.
So … which side is correct? For years, I have argued against closing primaries – believing voters have every right to cast their ballots in whichever primary election floats their boat. In 2016, I even argued that voters in the “First in the South” presidential preference primaries should have been allowed to vote in both GOP and Democratic elections seeing as these races were held on different days.
Anyway, how did the closed primary amendment fare? Not well …
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Only twenty-seven out of 124 House members voted to keep it in the election reform bill. The overwhelming majority of lawmakers – including the overwhelming majority of “Republicans” – voted to kill the amendment.
A lot of ostensibly “conservative” GOP politicians and activists are holding up this roll call vote as some sort of litmus test for “Republican” elected officials – claiming those who failed to vote in support of closed partisan primaries are not sufficiently loyal to the GOP cause.
I disagree …
As I noted back in 2016, the only people mad about Democrats crossing the aisle to vote in GOP primaries are those “dumb enough to believe there’s still an ‘aisle’ to be crossed.”
Because in South Carolina … there isn’t. All the Democratic politicians just flipped their labels.
More fundamentally, though, in addition to doing everything within our power to prevent voter fraud, we should be doing everything within our power to maximize voter participation (and flexibility of choice at the polls).
I understand the two-party system – and the establishments propping it up – don’t want that sort of choice and flexibility, but increasingly the people do. According to the latest Gallup polling, a whopping 42 percent of Americans described themselves as independents – compared to only 29 percent who classified themselves as Democrats and 27 percent who identified with the Republican label.
“The broader trend toward an increasing share of political independents has been clear over the past decade, with more Americans viewing themselves as independents than did so in the late 1980s through 2000s,” noted Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones. “At least four in 10 Americans have considered themselves independents in all years since 2011, except for the 2016 and 2020 presidential election years. Before 2011, independent identification had never reached 40 percent.”
(Click to view)
Also, the percentage of Americans describing themselves as independents barely ticked below 40 percent during the last two election years – clocking in at 39 percent in both 2016 and 2020.
Meaning this shift is here to stay even during election years – which is when the mainstream media spin machines and their social media filtration devices are working overtime to funnel misinformation to voters in the hopes of keeping them in either the red or (mostly) blue camps.
Whatever partisan or ideological label one claims, though, suffrage is sacred. The right to vote must be protected at all costs. And make no mistake: We cannot allow public faith in the sanctity of the ballot box to be eroded any further if we expect our representative form of government to survive.
Voting is one of our most fundamental freedoms, and it must be protected from fraud and abuse – even if adopting such safeguards goes against the vanguard of America’s prevailing ‘woke’ orthodoxy.
As is their custom, though, “Republicans” in South Carolina are all talk and no action when it comes to standing for freedom and free markets. Certainly, they are doing absolutely nothing to protect the integrity of the vote in the Palmetto State.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. Oh, he also has LOTS of hats … but has given them up for Lent this year.
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