Opinion: Texas Must Close Primary Elections

Polling Station | Image by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock
Polling Station | Image by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (TX21) has a long history of acting in conflict with his claimed party’s priorities. In February of this year, Phelan was censured by the Texas Republican Party for “lack of fidelity” to Republican principals. He has come under fire by Republicans for appointing Democrats to chair powerful committees in a Republican majority Texas House. Phelan has also been criticized for appointing Democrats to a gun control committee, failing to hold a hearing on a bill that would have prohibited China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia from buying Texas land and killing an important border security bill. Not surprisingly, Dade Phelan was also just reelected by a staggering number of Democrats voting in his Texas House District Republican Primary Election. Democrats crossing over to vote for Dade Phelan in a Republican Primary Election provides hard evidence underscoring the urgent need for reform in Texas Republican Primary Elections.

In Texas, citizens do not choose a party when they register to vote. Texas has an Open Primary System. This means registered voters can choose which party’s primary they wish to vote in. This Open Primary System creates election integrity and First Amendment issues with Democrats crossing over to vote in Republican Primaries. This intrusion interferes with the Texas Republican Party’s First Amendment right of freedom of association to choose its own Republican Primary candidate. This freedom of association, while not specifically stated in the First Amendment, has been recognized by the Supreme Court as “an indispensable means of preserving” other First Amendment freedoms. The Court has recognized this right as closely related to the freedom of speech and assembly. Accordingly, the Court also recognized this right to include the freedom to not associate, prohibiting undue interference.

Texas conservatives have tried, for years, to convince legislators to close Texas Primary Elections. Absent legislative action, grassroots activists and the state party believe they have found a new solution. Closing the Texas Primary Elections has been in the GOP’s State Platform for years. In the March 2024 Primary, voters passed Proposition 9 to close primaries with 73% support. At last week’s Texas GOP Convention, the Rules Committee officially began the process by passing Rule 46. This Rule takes a legal position enabling the Republican Party of Texas to conduct closed primaries.

Multiple states have closed their primary elections through party rule and have successfully defended that position in federal court. This is because the First Amendment’s freedom of association grants state political parties certain rights of association. This means state parties can choose to associate with Republican voters for choosing their primary candidates. It also means the Republican Party can choose to disassociate with Democrat voters to prevent them from diluting Republican voices and votes in the Texas Republican Primary.

While numerous instances of interference abound, none illustrate it more vividly than the thousands of Democrats who voted in the fiercely contested Dade Phelan v. David Covey Texas Republican Primary.

In the March 2024 TX21 Primary Election, challenger David Covey defeated Dade Phelan, however a third candidate threw that race into a runoff. Voter data indicates that over 3,000 Democrat voters crossed over and voted in that Republican Primary. Those Democrats made up 11% of total voter turnout. Without them, Phelan’s opponent, David Covey, most likely would have won it outright in a three-way race.

In the May 2024 TX21 Primary Runoff that followed, Phelan came back and narrowly defeated Covey by a mere 366 votes. Significantly, of the 25,260 total votes cast, over 2,000 were Democrat voters who crossed over and early voted. That is 8% of the total vote and doesn’t even include Election Day Democrat voters, as those voter details are not yet available. Voter history data provides evidence that in this 366-vote margin election, the Democrats took Republicans First Amendment right of association to elect their own Republican Primary Candidate.

Citizens and groups are organizing. Every freedom-loving Texan who believes Texas should close its primaries should get involved. Go to this link to learn how you can join this movement.

Leigh Wambsganss is a founding board member and the executive director of Patriot Mobile Action. 

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article