Some in Ga. GOP want closed primaries after Trump picks lose

ATLANTA – Some Republican activists are calling for Georgia’s open primary system to be scrapped and complaining that too many Democrats have moved into the state’s GOP primary to vote against candidates backed by former President Donald Trump.

This call to close the primaries comes after an analysis by Associated Press of early voting records from data firm L2 found that more than 37,000 people who voted in the Georgia Democratic primary two years ago moved to the Republican primary on May 24 to cast their ballots. The five statewide GOP incumbents Trump targeted for defeat — including Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – ended up winning their primaries.


The proposal is likely to face stiff opposition, with leading Republicans and Democrats signaling Monday they see no reason to change Georgia’s open primary system. Like 14 other states, Georgia does not register voters by party. Voters can choose which primaries they want to vote in when they go to polling stations and switch back and forth in subsequent elections without changing their registration.

David Clark, a member of the Republican House of Representatives, and Colton Moore, a Republican Senate candidate, said they would introduce bills aimed at withholding crossover voting in next year’s legislative session. They appeared at a press conference with Republican Vernon Jones, a Trump-backed congressional candidate who faces a June 21 runoff against a challenger whom Jones claims urged Democrats to vote for him.

Moore, who faces no Democratic opposition for a Senate seat in the northwest Georgia suburbs of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in November, said parties shouldn’t be forced to align with people who don’t share their views.


“All we’re asking is that the parties have the freedom to connect with their base, with their constituents who are interested in their morality and their principles,” Moore said. “We’re trying to make the primary pure, and that’s electoral integrity.”

A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, who controls the flow of legislation in the House of Representatives, dismissed the idea.

“There is no need to change the current primary system,” said Kaleb McMinchen, spokesman for Ralston.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, also signaled no interest.

“She supports open primaries because they allow for more turnout,” said Seth Bringman, a spokesman for Abrams.

The calls for change come from party activists after crossover voters may have given the winning margin to Raffensperger, who refused to heed Trump’s calls to reverse his 2020 election defeat in the state.

Raffensperger surpassed the 50 percent hurdle needed to avoid a runoff against U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, his Trump-backed challenger, by just over 27,000 votes, according to the latest AP tally. Based on early voting data alone, 37,144 former Democrats voted in the Republican primary. The total number of crossovers, including election day votes, to be announced in the coming weeks will be even higher.


An AP investigation of pre-Trump voting records shows that at least some of Georgia’s 37,000 party-changers in 2022 had been in the Republican camp before Trump took office. According to L2 data, about 9,000 to 13,000 voted for the Republican in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 primary.

Raffensperger’s campaign has pushed back on the idea that he won the GOP primary because of Democrats, suggesting that a number of crossover voters were actually Republicans who have voted Democrats in protest against Trump in recent years.

Moore and Jones said they weren’t sure if the crossover voters nominated Raffensperger or anyone else. A spokesman for Raffensperger’s office said he was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Crossover voting, also known as strategic voting, is not exclusive to Georgia. Voters from across the political spectrum have sought this primary season to thwart Trump-backed candidates who support his lies that the 2020 election was stolen.


While Trump railed against the practice last month, there is nothing inherently wrong with crossover voting. In addition to Georgia and 14 other states with open-ended primary elections, a number of other states allow unaffiliated voters to vote in the primary of their choice or allow people to switch parties on election day to vote in a different primary.

It is not clear how often crossover voting is effective. Trump’s opponents encouraged Democrats to help defeat US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in her Republican primary in Georgia last week. The congresswoman who embraced election lies and spoke at an event organized by a white nationalist won by more than 50 percentage points.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Some in Ga. GOP want closed primaries after Trump picks lose

Sarah Y. Kim

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