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Switching Parties at Primary

 

Executive Summary:
Ohio voters can choose to switch parties in more circumstances than most other states 
  • If they feel convicted enough they can even do it on primary day
  • The one major restriction is a person cannot switch just to cause havoc with a rival party
  • Election workers have a duty to challenge a person who they believe is not qualified to vote

Controversy:  The Secretary of State reports on her website she informed election workers they must challenge voters if they decide to switch parties.

This article attempts to find out the basis for the instructions and if they are rooted in the law. I also am trying to find the actual instructions the Secretary put out so I can compare them to the way others are reporting it in the news papers and blogs. I also reflect a little on my initial reaction to the blog / newspaper reports.

One of the reasons this subject interests me is because a lot of independents chose to vote in Democratic Primary the last presidential election because the Democratic race was interesting.  In this election they still have enthusiasm and are interested in participating but now that they see what happens when they vote Democrat and they feel remiss.  Today they wish to participate as moderate Republicans.  Its important to my campaign these people know it is legal for them to switch and vote Republican.  

{I guess in fairness I should let you know that at this time I've only come across authoritative web articles that state the Ohio supreme court ruled that poll workers must get people switching parties to sign a document stating they wish to support a new party.   I am required by personality to let you know the current status of my research.  I don't like the current status and intend to try and find the court ruling to see if it matches the interpretation of the other purported expert. }

You see in the executive summary the point of this article.  In a nutshell, I've seen a few articles and blogs that indicate the Ohio Secretary of State issued guidance to election workers to challenge people who ask to pull the ballot for a different party than the one they are currently registered.  She appears to confirm this on her campaign website.  Though there is some basis for her guidance the way I've heard it reported she goes overboard in an attempt to dissuade people from switching parties.  Specifically, people are hearing her message as "if a person wants to switch parties, they probably are violating the law and should be stopped".  When in fact the Ohio law appears to allow almost anyone to switch if they really desire to be in the newly chosen party.  More over the Secretary doesn't offer instructions on how a Republican or Democrat should proceed if they want to vote in the primaries of one of the newly recognized parties (Constitution (Con), Libertarian (Lib), Socialist USA (Soc), Green (Gre)).

I'll try and make up for a lack of official guidance from the Secretary of State by trying to assemble references which will provide voters useful information.

I'll start with posting the actual law as found at http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3513.19 After you read that I tell you my interpretation. This will give you the opportunity to judge if I know how to read. 

3513.19 Challenges at primary elections.

(A) It is the duty of any judge of elections , whenever any judge of elections doubts that a person attempting to vote at a primary election is legally entitled to vote at that election, to challenge the right of that person to vote. The right of a person to vote at a primary election may be challenged upon the following grounds:

(1) That the person whose right to vote is challenged is not a legally qualified elector;

(2) That the person has received or has been promised some valuable reward or consideration for the personís vote;

(3) That the person is not affiliated with or is not a member of the political party whose ballot the person desires to vote. Such party affiliation shall be determined by examining the electorís voting record for the current year and the immediately preceding two calendar years as shown on the voterís registration card, using the standards of affiliation specified in the seventh paragraph of section 3513.05 of the Revised Code. Division (A)(3) of this section and the seventh paragraph of section 3513.05 of the Revised Code do not prohibit a person who holds an elective office for which candidates are nominated at a party primary election from doing any of the following:

(a) If the person voted as a member of a different political party at any primary election within the current year and the immediately preceding two calendar years, being a candidate for nomination at a party primary held during the times specified in division (C)(2) of section 3513.191 of the Revised Code provided that the person complies with the requirements of that section;

(b) Circulating the personís own petition of candidacy for party nomination in the primary election.

(B) When the right of a person to vote is challenged upon the ground set forth in division (A)(3) of this section, membership in or political affiliation with a political party shall be determined by the personís statement, made under penalty of election falsification, that the person desires to be affiliated with and supports the principles of the political party whose primary ballot the person desires to vote.

There are two sections to consider in this law.  (A) and (B).  (A) is kind of tricky with a couple subtle points so I'll start with section (B).

Section (B) tells us if an election judge decides to challenge a voter because that voter wants to switch parties, the judge has to take the word of the voter if the voter states they want to change parties.  Additionally if it turns out the person gave that statement for a reason other than to properly switch parties then the voter could be charged with election falsification.  

Section (A) tells us if an election judge questions if a person is eligible to vote then they must investigate.  The important part concerning the switching of parties is section (A)(3) sub part (a).  If you have voted in a primary in the last two years you will show up as a member of the Party you chose the last primary. This section says being in one party and asking for another party's ballot is one reason that could peak the interest of the election judge.  The question; does the word "may" in the sentence "may be challenged upon the following grounds "  force the election judge to make that challenge.  This is the question I don't actually know the answer to.  If "may" doesn't bring in the option then the rest of the statute is clear and a person requesting to switch parties should be challenged and they would be required to state they  desire to be affiliated with and support the principles of the political party whose primary ballot they desire to vote  If "may" does bring in the option then the election worker decides to challenge based on their assessment of the intention of the voter. Either way a voter wishing to change parties should do it for appropriate reasons and be prepared to state so if challenged.

Another consideration Secretary of State Brunner should address is how having new party primaries affects her requirement for poll workers to challenge switchers.  Obviously since before this election there never has been a Libertarian primary, there currently aren't any people registered as Libertarian.  Also, it can be expected some current Republicans and Democrats are going to want to join this party (or one of the other new parties).  Are poll workers required to make all these individuals sign a loyalty statement.  If so the Secretary should make sure all these voters are aware of this before they go to vote.   

I have tried to find some more clarifying information.  One article I found supports the Secretary's interpretation that a written loyalty oath is required.  This article is found on a website associated with Ohio State University.  Since the University allows the author to present himself as an authority speaking on behalf of the institution I accept the advice is given in good faith without an inappropriate political agenda. Therefore, it is expected most people would accept the Secretary's instructions as appropriate. I still desire to clean up some of the loose ends of my thinking so I'm still going to inquire and look around to see if there isn't an equally authoritative article with a differing interpretation of the law.  But I wouldn't expect most of you to show continued interest.

I first became aware of the Secretary half educating people through a couple of blogs and comments online.  My initial comments were prepared hurriedly and I posted a couple of inquiries and statements with inaccuracies and of course bad grammar.  For instance I initially was under the impression Ms. Brunner was the attorney general.  I would apologize for posting without thinking things out better but since I will probably end up making that kind of mistake again, let me just acknowledge to my readers I know I should do a better job developing my thoughts (and grammar) prior to posting.  To Secretary of State Brunner I didn't mean to offend by not knowing your real position.  

 

Below is the manifestation of my first reaction.  It's not too inflammatory but its also not in the informative and educational manner I wish to communicate.

Secretary of State is just Wrong

 

Open Letter to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner from the campaign of Thomas McMasters 

 Please advise how I can avoid jail.

 When I retired from the Air Force this past Oct I decide I would for the first time affiliate myself with the Republican Party.  This was a tough choice since I am by nature independent and believe in a lot of the principles of both the Republican and Democratic parties.  After close examination of the major issues, I decided the stated Republican position concerning the budget deficit trumps all other issues.  I feel so strongly about this issue I decided to try and run for Congress.  During my campaign Iíve made no attempt to disguise my desire to lead the Republican Party to a position of super strength by encouraging independents and other moderates to overwhelm the party with centrist positions of a balanced budget and responsible regulation.  Now I read that Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner sent out a letter saying my strategy is felonious and people inclined to vote for me risk jail time.  My letter is to ask her to explain her position in the context of the law so that I may conduct my campaign in an honorable fashion.

 On her website where she explains her position she fails to declare any useful references to the actual Ohio code.  I searched and at http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3513.19  found the law I believe she is referencing.  She reads the law and sees it as one that requires voters be challenged when changing parties for a primary election.  However, in section (A) the code states it is a duty of the judge of elections to challenge a voter if they doubt that a person attempting to vote at a primary election is legally entitled to vote at that election.  It goes on to say one reason they may challenge is if within the last two years that person voted as a member of a different political party.  When I read the law its clear the requirement to challenge manifests itself only if thereís reason to believe the voter intended to interfere maliciously with a rival partyís primary.  Additionally, section (B) of the law states that if challenged, a voter still must be given the desired ballot if they clarify their intention is to support their new party. 

 Where the Secretary of State sees an outdated law that favors political parties over voters I see a testament to Ohio as one of the only places in the country where a person like me is given an opportunity to strengthen a political party.  I completely support an effort to inform voters it would be dishonorable for a radical to vote in the other partyís primary just to disrupt the other party (I even hope she is right and its against the law) However, reading this law it is completely legal for me to entice Reagan Democrats to permanently join the Republican Party ensuring the party enjoys perpetual majority status.  Of course, the way I intend on keeping them is to ensure the Reaganite policy of claiming to be fiscally responsible while tripling the national debt is a thing of the past. 

 Though Iím not a lawyer I know enough about the law to realize the Secretary of State might be familiar with other sections in the code that supports her recent instructions.  I ask her to present that information in an open forum.  This information will help ensure this Republican Congressional candidate conducts a legal campaign while also confirming the good intentions of the Democratic Senatorial Candidate.

 

 

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