Two Spartanburg County legislators plan to pick up the fight for closed primaries when they reconvene with their colleagues in January. Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Woodruff, and Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, said they plan to pre-file legislation that would close the primaries. South Carolina voters would have to register by party and vote only in their own party’s primary. “I think Republican-minded people should choose our candidate and not have it part of a partisan strategy of who the other party would like to run against,” Chumley said. Such legislation has died in the Legislature before, but the lawmakers said they are undeterred and are optimistic this year could be different. “It’s something the party’s been pushing for a while,” Bright said. “I’m starting to hear it from people outside the establishment.”
Voters are currently only allowed to vote in one primary, but they are able to decide which one on the day they arrive at their polling places. In the case of a runoff, a voter can only vote in the race he or she initially cast a ballot in. Changing to a closed primary would make voters choose a side earlier, Bright said.
“I don’t think it’s too unreasonable,” he said.
According to FairVote.org, 17 states have open primaries like South Carolina’s, while 21 states and the District of Columbia have completely closed primaries and 12 have a combination of open and closed.