Vote against S.C. GOP effort to disenfranchise you

File photo from 2018 primary.

File photo from 2018 primary.

I’m voting in the Republican primary on Tuesday. The choice of which primary, of course, was easy. Where I live, there is no Democratic primary this year. Not one contested race.

Not that the choices offered on the GOP ballot are anything to write home about. There are some candidates running against Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson, but what do you think their chances are? I am going to look more closely into one of the candidates running challenging Graham, after Scout said supportive things about him the other day. But bottom line, on these two positions we DO have good alternatives for once in the fall, so I’m going to be voting for Jaime Harrison and Adair Ford Boroughs. Jaime is an excellent candidate and I’m really pleased to have the privilege of supporting him, and while I don’t know Ms. Boroughs as well, I can tell she’d be better than Joe. Way better.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon has opposition, but I know next to nothing about that. There’s the problem that the sheriff of the county I live in just doesn’t make news the way my twin over in Richland County does. He keeps a much lower profile than, say, Jimmy Metts did. So I need to try to get schooled up a bit by Tuesday. If I don’t learn enough to make an informed choice, I’ll skip that race.

But there’s one thing to vote on that I wouldn’t miss, that I would beat down doors to have the chance to have my say on: I’m going to vote against the Republican Party’s effort to take away my right to vote.

Oh, the wording seems innocuous enough, to anyone completely clueless about what’s going on: “Do you support giving voters the right to register to vote with the political party of their choice?”

Golly, who could be against that, right? Shouldn’t we have the right to back any party we want? Well, yeah — and it’s a right we already have, and one that is not even slightly endangered. There is no rule against backing a party, and no such rule is threatened.

What’s threatened here is the rights of those of us who don’t want to support a party, any party. If you know what’s going on, you read the question differently. I read it this way: “Do you support banning people like you from being able to vote?” Anyone who wishes to make his or her own decisions in future elections — rather than surrendering that power to a party — will read it that way.

Of course, what I mean is, vote in primaries. Which, the way Republicans have rigged things through the process of gerrymandering (as Democrats would have done if they’d had the chance, but they don’t, and haven’t had since the science of politicians choosing their voters got really sophisticated), are increasingly the only time we get a choice in who our legislators are.

That’s generally the case in congressional races, too — although as I said, this year is unusual in that Joe Wilson has a pretty good Democratic opponent in November. Of course, he and predecessor Floyd Spence have occasionally had other good opponents over the years (Jim Leventis in 1988, Jane Frederick in 2000) — but the district remains drawn for Republicans, so he still enjoys a great advantage in November.

As Cindi Scoppe explained in an enewsletter (let me know if you have trouble getting that link) the other day:

With obvious exceptions, primaries are probably more important than the general election. That’s because so many contests in South Carolina are decided in the primaries — a result of the GOP domination statewide along with the gerrymandering of congressional, legislative, county council and in too many places even school board district lines. (The gerrymandering sometimes benefits Republicans, sometimes Democrats and never, ever voters.)

But extremists in both parties want to make primaries private affairs, to make sure the nominated candidates are as extreme as possible. Used to be, party leaders opposed these efforts, and most elected officials still do, realizing that the way you win elections in November is by getting people bought into the candidates through the primaries. But the state Republican Party leadership was taken over a few years ago by people who want to stop the rest of us from voting in these most crucial elections unless we swear an oath of allegiance to their party, and again this year they’ve put a deceptively worded question on the GOP primary ballot aimed at locking us out….

Cindi was being rather mild there with that “deceptively worded question.” As the paper Cindi works for now put it in an editorial, it is “a grossly misleading question.” As that editorial continued:

The ballot question is designed by party officials who want to force all of us to register our allegiance to a political party — or else be barred from participating in primaries. The results have no force of law, but if a majority of Republican primary voters say “yes,” those party leaders will use it as ammunition to demand that the Republicans who control the Legislature change long-standing state policy to close the ballot to all but the most partisan among us.

That might not be such a huge problem if we had competitive elections in November, but we rarely do….

Oh, as for the business of this not being binding: Of course it isn’t. If it were an actual referendum, it would have to be worded differently to achieve its aim. But this not a legal device, it’s a political one, meant to achieve a political purpose. In this case, the purpose is to enable the party to say to its members in the General Assembly: How can you vote against our bill to close primaries? Didn’t you see how people asserted their right to partisan identity in the primary? Aren’t you, like them, proud to be a Republican?

The S.C. GOP has a long and shameful history of using this ham-handed device to bludgeon its own members into doing stupid and even terrible things. In case you’re forgotten, Cindi wrote a column a few days back to remind you how Henry McMaster, as party chairman, and other GOP leaders used their 1994 primary to wrap themselves in the Confederate flag for a generation. If you don’t remember that the way I do — as one of the most shameful things I’ve seen in SC politics in a long career — you should probably go read that piece, and be reminded.


26 thoughts on “Vote against S.C. GOP effort to disenfranchise you

  1. Bob Amundson

    Both “advisory questions” were worded to ensure a predetermined response. Frustrating …

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Of course. These bogus things always are. They’re not about seeking advice; they’re about pushing an agenda.

      I just don’t much care about the other question. The first one is a direct attack on me and every other person who wants to make his or her own decisions about who will represent us….

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks, Randle, and I always appreciate yours.

      But I just did what I usually do — I had some points to make, but I let Cindi do most of the actual work…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, on a previous post I partially quoted something from Michael Bishop, the guy opposing Joe Wilson in tomorrow’s primary — just to illustrate something Scout had said.

    But to help you in voting tomorrow if you are in the 2nd Congressional District, here’s his full statement. Yes, it starts out with the usual silly “I’m a conservative conservative!” nonsense, but he goes on to say some practical things based in his experience in local government:

    I’m a pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, conservative republican. I’ve been Mayor of Springdale for six years. I believe in term limits and I promised to serve no more than eight years for my town. I have two years left and I’m happy to turn over the reins. I’ve worked hard to get my town in a great position, however, I feel as if many of our major issues stem from a lack of support from above. That’s why I’m running! I realize we have national issues and responsibilities, but I want to focus a majority of my time and energy on improving our district. I want great roads, our litter issues to be addressed, and money for infrastructure. I promise to meet with mayors, county administrators, state representatives, and other influential members of the community on a regular basis to learn what I can do in the federal office to empower them to excel in their positions. I believe in limited government. I believe in supporting the people whose boots are on the ground making our communities a better place. I don’t think federal government should tell a town how to run their business. I only want to build those relationships and see how I can support them. I personally understand those struggles. In my current position, we have a road that has been out since the 2015 flood. We have interstate interchanges and bridges in desperate need of repair. We have roads that are decades old within the neighborhoods. We have storm water drainage issues that require huge funding. We have ponds that are Category 1 danger classified, yet they aren’t being addressed. Our current Congressman is not fighting for the betterment of our district! I will dedicate all of my time to fix these problems, in addition to the similar problems that I learn about in other areas of my district. All I’m asking of you right now is to give me two years. I promise in two years you will realize what hasn’t been happening for our district, prior to me. If you want term limits, you must vote in someone that believes in term limits. If you want better roads, you must vote in someone that is willing to fight for the funding. If you want a congressman that identifies and fixes issues within the district, you must vote in someone that is active in the community and has the experience to understand what resources our municipalities and counties desperately need. I am all of these things. I’ve proven my record. I’m not interested in becoming a career politician. I’ve worked in agriculture for Clemson University for 25 years. I am prepared to resign from that position. I own Dust to Dust Green Burial / Nature Reserve Cemetery in Swansea. My son, Luke (20), who just returned from deployment, is prepared to take over those duties. I am prepared to resign as Mayor of Springdale. I want to be your full-time Congressman! I will amaze you with how often you see me in your community. Previously, the Congressman’s staff has mailed the American flag to the brave and deserving people of our district. If I become Congressman, these flags will not be mailed by staff members. I will personally be delivering these flags to their deserving recipients. This is just a small example of the type of hands-on congressman I will be. Should I be elected, everything positive that has been currently going on in our district will continue. I promise you only better things are to come. If you want this change to become a reality, please vote for me. I need your support against Joe Wilson in the upcoming republican primary election! Please vote for me on June 9, 2020! I look forward to personally serving you and your family. Please contact me with any questions you may have!

    God bless.

    By the way, that stuff about stormwater drainage issues (because of grossly neglected infrastructure) resonated with me even if it doesn’t with you. Back during the 2018 campaign — and particularly during the hurricane we had — Mandy Powers Norrell talked about this problem from her extensive experience as a municipal attorney.

    Of course, no one paid attention. Media were too busy giving Henry his daily, extended free campaign ad — his daily emergency response briefings.

    By the way, I think media SHOULD give governors that venue under those circumstances. It just would have been nice to cover what our side had to say a little more. I think those couple of weeks we were dealing with that storm and aftermath may have cost us that election. (Before it, we were catching up in polls. After it, we had fallen so far behind we never caught up.) Something I keep meaning to write about, and perhaps one day I’ll get around to it…

    1. Bob Amundson

      I like Mike; we know him because my mother wanted a green burial, and she is buried at Dust-to-Dust in Swansea. I don’t agree with all of his politics, but I vote much more on character than policies. He was very helpful when we lost “Ma” and continues to be helpful as we try to maintain her grave site. Ma will be part of a tree someday, and we just met with Mike to discuss planting a mulberry tree. I wish we were in his District so wife Joan and I could vote for him.

      1. Scout

        I’m voting for him too. I got a good impression from his website that he seems like a real person who listens and trys to understand things. I get that I don’t agree with him on everything but I appreciate being a real person that tries. And from what I know so far, I definitely like him better than Joe.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, as for my comment about the wording of the question seeming innocuous “to anyone completely clueless about what’s going on,” well, of course, that’s a LOT of people. And that’s something the state GOP is counting on.

    How many S.C. voters tell you, “I’m a registered (insert name of party)!” They’re often quite definite about that. Which is OK, because I like having the opportunity to tell them that no, they’re not, because we don’t have party registration in South Carolina. Each of us is free to vote in whatever primary we want for whomever we want. Which means I can go on and tell us how this means that — at least in this one thing — we are truly blessed and respected as voters in this state.

    I like sharing wonderful news like that.

    And so I get pretty ticked when devious party leaders are trying to take that precious right away from us…

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    I still haven’t had time to learn enough about the sheriff’s race to make a decision. Maybe I can tonight.

    As for the state Senate — I’m going to vote for the guy these guys are vying to run against, incumbent Nikki Setzler. Of course, if I had a preference between these two guys who want to run against him, I’d vote for the better one — or the least bad. Because, while I think Nikki’s going to be fine, you never know. And if one of these guys were clearly better than the other, it’s good to have a backup.

    But from what I’ve seen looking at their materials, I have no preference. So I’m not voting on that one…

    1. Scout

      I am struggling with this one. I’ve looked at both of them and don’t really like either from what I can tell. I may skip it as well because I do like Nikki.

      I think I’m leaning toward Arnold for Sheriff. But I don’t have alot of information either way. They both seem qualified and not hearing much about the job in the past 5 years, maybe means things are running smoothly under Koon? I didn’t realize it had been 5 years since all that happened with Knotts. I gather that people are upset with Koon about FOI fees and Arnold says he’ll fix that. Arnold has more degrees and more varied experiences, but whether or not that actually makes him better for the job, I don’t know. He apparently is from the family of Arnolds who go with the Arnold School of Public Health at USC.

      That’s all I know. My voting place has moved. I’m going to put on my mask and venture out to it this afternoon.

  5. Bryan Caskey

    There is a good Democratic primary race in my 75th House District between Rhodes Bailey and Heather Bauer to see who gets to face Kirkman Finlay in the general.

  6. Barry

    I’m voting in the democratic primary this time in my district.. I can’t stomach republicans right now.

    1. bud

      The ONLY reason to vote in the GOP primary would be to pick the candidate easiest to beat in November.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Everyone please note that in 2016, bud recommended voting for Donald Trump because he would be “the candidate easiest to beat in November.”

        And of course, I will say now what I said then: Do NOT for an instant consider doing anything like that, EVER.

        The reasons are legion. But the main one is this: A major party nominee (at least on the presidential level, and sometimes in other races, despite gerrymandering) is likely to be inches away from getting elected. So, when you vote, it should always be for the very BEST, or least bad, candidate available to you — because there’s the chance that person will be elected.

        So have a sacred duty as a voter, and must never for an instant consider soiling it by voting for someone you don’t want to see elected.

        Finally, if you do dishonor your right to vote that way, then you are validating what the SC GOP is trying to do here. One of their excuses for seeking closed primaries is to prevent people from doing what bud is suggesting.

        Fortunately, I think, relatively few people actually do what bud is suggesting. If they did, we would have seen a lot more votes for Bernie Sanders on Feb. 29, since there was an evil effort by some Republicans to do exactly what bud advocates. Fortunately, too few did even to be noticed….

      2. Scout

        I think the reason to vote in the GOP primary is that living where we live, they are most likely to be the final choice, so you might as well help pick the one that is the most reasonable of the bunch, if possible.

        Not always, but generally speaking, I usually find the democratic nominee to be a reasonable choice without my intervention – so I help pick a reasonable nominee from the other side – and then in my ideal world – both candidates are reasonable in November.

        That rarely happens but I can hope. McCain – Obama was the closest that ever got, but the Palin thing kind of tainted it.


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