Would Alabama residents join parties officially?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Alabama is solidly a “red” state, but are we red enough to wear a proverbial scarlet letter – this time an R?

If Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) has his way, and his SB 405 becomes law, Alabamians would be required, beginning in 2016, to be registered members of the party in whose primary they are participating for at least 90 days preceding the election. Those unwilling to declare party membership could only vote in nonpartisan primaries.

For decades, that wouldn’t have been a problem in Alabama, where Democratic parties were pretty much the only primaries. We were, for one brief shining moment, a two-party state. However, we are almost as Republican as we once were Democrat, with no Democrats in statewide office, and few in local offices.

Still, will Alabamians be willing to register their allegiance to a political party?

No doubt, Beason’s main motivation is to prevent the kind of game-changing voting that’s occurred in past years, like when the usually-Democratic AEA worked hard to help now-Gov. Robert Bentley defeat the AEA’s enemy, Bradley Byrne, in the Republican primary.

A similar thing occurred in 1986 when the Democrats tossed out Charlie Graddick as their nominee after he solicited crossover votes to defeat Bill Baxley. The end result was a Republican governor named Guy Hunt, Alabama’s first since Reconstruction.

Many states have closed party primaries, but we’re guessing the notion won’t set well with Alabamians.

It would even be interesting to see what the proposed requirement could do to party politics.

Already, the Code of Alabama gives political parties the right to determine who votes in their primaries.

“Every governing body of a party shall have the right, power, and authority to fix and prescribe the political or other qualifications of its own members and shall, in its own way, declare and determine who shall be entitled and qualified to vote in such primary election or to be candidates therein or to otherwise participate in such political parties and primaries.” (Code of Alabama, Section 17-13-7).

It makes us wonder of Beason’s proposed legislation is really necessary.