Missouri Sounds Like Mississippi

This article on Missouri’s August 5 party primaries is a reminder of a recurring complaint among Mississippi voters.

Missouri, like Mississippi, has open primaries: each voter picks a party on primary day. In this particular Missouri county, all of the contested races for county offices are in the Republican primary. There are, however, some exciting races in the Democratic primary for state offices, which means that voters in this county will have to forgo those state races if they choose to vote in their contested county races.

Last year, the races for county officials in Mississippi’s largest county, Hinds, were decided in the Democratic primary, so anyone who chose that primary missed out on voting in the Republican contests for state offices. And a Hinds countian who voted in the Republican primary in order to vote in the hot race for lieutenant governor between Phil Bryant and Charlie Ross, for example– that citizen did not get to vote for his county officials, including the sheriff.

The situation was reversed in neighboring Rankin County, where the county races were almost all decided in the Republican primary. Anyone who, for example, voted in the Democratic primary in order to vote for a fellow Rankin countian, Rob Smith, for secretary of state– that person missed out on voting for his county officials.

There were similar stories in other parts of the state.

Our next state and county elections, to be sure, won’t occur until 2011, but most Mississippi municipalities will elect their officials next year. What sometimes happens in those races is that all or most of the candidates for mayor run in one party’s primary, while all of the candidates in certain wards or districts run in the other party’s primary. So instead of asking voters “Democrat or Republican?”, the poll workers ask, “mayor or council member?” In 2005, Hattiesburg and Tupelo were two cities in which this took place.

What usually happens in the above situations is that people get upset when they realize that their voting choices will be limited, but they then forget about it until the next time it transpires.

Click here to see a plan that I have proposed for giving Mississippi voters greater choice.

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