Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cross-party primary voting

Michigan appears to be coming down to the wire. One poll released today has Santorum up by 1%, and the other released today shows Romney up by the same margin. The race, with its great potential to impact the rest of the primary campaign, will likely be decided by secondary factors. One factor that bears discussion, particularly with much of my readership being located in Ohio, is the issue of cross-party voting. In Michigan, as in Ohio, any voter is allowed to vote in either party's primary. The Santorum campaign has been using robo-calls to encourage Democrats to ask for a GOP ballot and vote for Santorum to stick it to Romney.

It would certainly be in the interest of the Democrats to see Romney lose in Michigan. And the race will likely be close enough that it wouldn't take too many mischievous union autoworkers to vote Republican to change the outcome. While Romney has been decrying such tactics in the past day, his record of admitting to voting in Democratic primaries in Massachusetts for the "weakest opponent for the Republican" undercuts his claim. So, given his personal history of doing the same thing, Romney deserves what he gets.

But I'm genuinely torn about whether or not voting in the other party's primary is an abuse of voting rights (disclosure: in 2000, my first official vote I ever cast was for John McCain, despite being a solid Democrat even then). On the one hand, it seems dishonest to say you're a supporter of one party when you're not. On the other, the parties are more or less able to make their own rules for primaries, and if they didn't want fake Republicans voting, they could change the rules to prevent it.

So I don't know what to recommend for Democrats and independents in Ohio and Michigan. It seems wrong to vote for the expressed purpose of sabotaging the other party, like Romney says he did in '92. But if, come the PA primary in April, there's a candidate who I think would be a better President than the others, I think I'd be ok with pulling the lever for him.

As far as tonight goes, if Romney loses but is able to point to Democratic shenanigans as an excuse, it might limit the effect of a Santorum win. I doubt that enough Democrats would be persuaded by the robocalls to make up for this cost, but we'll see. It's gonna be a long night; the last polls in Michigan close at 9pm ET, so there might be a late post tonight.

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