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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Open Primaries and Poll Taxes

By Douglas V. Gibbs

Recently in California a new law was passed that makes our election primaries open to all voters. In other words, you can vote for anyone you want regardless of party during the primary. Though I am not a big fan of a "party system," I realize it is a natural result of human nature. We tend to attract to those that think like ourselves, and parties ultimately form. But to allow voters to cross party-lines in the primaries is dangerous, and nullifies the whole point of the primaries.

I understand that not all States have primaries, and the rules for choosing candidates for a particular party varies from state to state - as it should. States are given the authority to make their own election rules, and maintain the elections in their state, according to Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. This is why the Florida-Chad controversy should have never resulted in the federal courts getting involved. The decision on what to do should have remained at the State level.

Open primaries allow members of opposing parties to vote in their opponent's primary in the hopes of affecting the outcome, and putting the weaker candidate on the ballot so that their own party has a better chance to win. If both parties of a two party system is doing such, the result will always be the two weakest candidates facing off against each other. How is that a good thing?

The main point of this article, however, is that supporters of Open Primaries contend that Closed Primaries are in violation of the 24th Amendment because limiting who can vote in a primary by party membership is a poll tax as per implied law.

Poll Tax: NOUN: A tax levied on people rather than on property, often as a requirement for voting.

A poll tax is a uniformed tax levied on the voters in the community in an effort to discourage or disfranchise voters of the lower income levels. In the United States poll taxes were used in the South as a prerequisite for voting to stop the vote of blacks and poor whites. Few blacks could vote because they had a little money. The poll tax to vote was $1.50.

The poll tax issue wound up in court. In October of 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Evelyn T. Butts' appeal. In 1966 the Supreme Court of the United States declared Poll Taxes unconstitutional. Their decision was based on the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1964 that made it illegal for a State to use taxes as a requirement to vote in the national elections.

A poll tax is a poll tax, however, and is not being applied in today's primary. One may suggest that the 24th Amendment "implies" that no action can be taken to close any election to any person - but primaries are simply party oriented, and the people who couldn't vote in the primary will be able to in the general election.

Simply put, the law specifically indicates poll taxes, and poll taxes are not in play here. Therefore, closed primaries are not unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, neither are open primaries.

I intend to work tirelessly to be a part of changing California's voting system back to closed primaries, to protect the vote from unethical actions intended to alter the vote through unscrupulous tactics.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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