July 15, 2014 10:30:44 AM
I'm one of the guys Chris McDaniel is upset about.
Let's back up first. Until 2007 when I lost my voting privileges, I was a registered Republican. Three years later, when those rights were restored, I registered as an Independent. I was living in Arizona during those years.
When I moved to Mississippi in 2011, I registered to vote but noticed that Mississippi does not register voters by political affiliation.
If given the opportunity, I would have registered as a Democrat, which says much about how my political orientation has changed over the past few years.
Despite identifying myself as a Democrat, I voted in the Republican primary on June 3 and voted again in the Republican runoff on June 24.
On each occasion, I voted for Cochran, but I do not intend to vote for Cochran in the November general election.
This is precisely what McDaniel and his supporters are so upset about. They point to a state law that dictates that if you vote in the primary for candidate you are committed to voting for that candidate in the general election. It's a silly law, and probably unconstitutional. It is also a law that has been rendered unenforceable because voters do not register by party. Since a voter has not declared himself or herself to be a member of a party, that person is free to vote in either party primary. Of course, you are not permitted to vote in one primary and then vote in the other party's runoff, should that situation arise as it did in this year's GOP race.
Opponents of these "open primaries" say that it creates a situation in which members of one party can affect the outcome on the other party's primary, presumably to help the weakest candidate emerge from the primary, thereby improving their preferred candidate's chances in the general election.
There is some merit in that. That scenario has played out before.
But I do not believe it applies in my own case. I suspect that could also be said for the majority of Democrats and Independents who crossed over to vote for Cochran in the GOP runoff. McDaniel is still contesting the outcome of that runoff, which saw Cochran come from behind to win by about 7,000 votes.
In my case, I was not trying to sabotage the GOP's election.
I was simply exercising my legal right to choose who will represent me as U.S. Senator in Washington.
I say I voted for Cochran. In reality, I was not voting for Cochran, I was voting against McDaniel, who I consider a dangerous, reckless man who does not represent the best interests of all Mississippians.
I voted against McDaniel twice and was ready to vote against him a third time in November.
Why not just sit out the GOP primary and runoff then?
Here is why. In today's Mississippi there is little reason to believe that a Democrat can win a statewide election. Travis Childers, the Democratic nominee who will face Cochran in November, is a double-digit underdog.
So, in reality, the decision as to who will be our U.S. Senator was decided in June. Given the choice between Cochran and McDaniel, it was an easy choice for me.
In November, I will choose between Cochran and Childers. Again, it is an easy choice.
I will vote for Childers, even though I am certain that he will not win.
If Mississippi wants to go to closed primaries, voters will have to pick a side and stick to it.
But until then, I will exercise my voting rights according to my conscience.
There is nothing dishonest or disreputable about that, regardless of McDaniel's view on the matter.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Ask Rufus: Oysters, steamboats and Thanksgiving LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Leonard Pitts: Bill Cosby, serial rapist? That's a lot to forgive NATIONAL COLUMNS
3. Birney Imes: Coffee run evokes memories of days past LOCAL COLUMNS
4. Roses and thorns: 11/23/14 ROSES & THORNS
5. Froma Harrop: End the game on immigration reform NATIONAL COLUMNS