It appears that there are some within the NC GOP that want to go back to the days of excluding unaffiliated voters from the party’s primary elections. This would be a bad idea for a number of reasons.
1. The numbers of voters registering as unaffiliated is exploding. Just in the past month, new unaffiliated voter registrations were 3.5x that of Republicans and Democrats combined.
2. As Republican registration has plateaued, there is a growing need to for it to appeal to unaffiliated voters to win elections. If unaffiliated voters are excluded from the primary process it allows the Democrats to begin building a relationship and appealing to those voters earlier. If the Democratic primary is open to unaffiliated voters, Democrats will pursue those votes and unaffiliateds could begin to form a comfort level in voting for Democratic candidates, a relationship that Republicans would not have. Thus, Republicans would have more ground to make up with unaffiliated voters when they really need them — in Novembers.
Just look at the numbers — only 31.75% of voters are registered Republican. Republicans must get 18.25% of the vote from somewhere else. The most logical place being unaffiliated voters.
3. They don’t change election outcomes. McCain didn’t win NC the NC primary because of unaffiliateds — neither did McCrory win the gubernatorial primary because of them. The unaffiliateds that would choose to vote in Republican primaries aren’t all that different ideologically from Republicans. In a poll we conducted in April 2008, before the primary election, we asked unaffiliated voters if they would be choosing to participate in the Republican or Democratic primary. Those that chose the Republican primary were just as conservative ideologically as registered Republicans.
4. A significant portion of the growth of unaffiliated voters over the past two years are disaffected Republicans fed up with their party. These are people the Republican party need to bring back into the fold, not push further away.
5. Roughly 40% of unaffiliated voters consider themselves conservative, according to our polling. Those are going to be the voters who choose to participate in the Republican primary, and the ones that would be excluded under the proposal.
6. Unaffiliateds represent a very small portion of the primary vote. In the 2004, 2006, and 2008 primaries unaffiliateds comprised somewhere between 8-12% of the voters in the Republican primary. Fact is, unaffiliateds generally don’t turn out to vote in primaries. While there may be more unaffiliated voters overall, they are still less likely that a registered R or D to vote in a primary.
I’m all for electing people to office that will uphold conservative values, but alienating a very large (and growing) segment of voters is not the way to win elections. Excluding unaffiliateds may actually be a way to for Republicans to ensure they are a minority party in North Carolina for the foreseeable future.