Monday, May 30, 2005

Crossovers for Fitch?

Over at Bacon's Rebellion, former Democratic Delegate Barnie Day has a proposal that offers both merit and mischief: That Democratic voters on primary day cross over to vote for Republican gubernatorial candidate George Fitch. Day writes:

Okay, fellow Dems, listen up. In the best spirit of bipartisanship, it falls our duty to help our addled Republican friends choose who will be their candidate for Governor in November by voting in the June 14 Republican Primary. That's right, as a Democrat you can vote in the Republican Primary. We're having two that day, simultaneously--one for the Ds and one for the Rs. (And, no, this doesn't threaten the Sage of the Shenandoah--Russ Potts will be on the ballot either way.) It doesn't change your registration. You don't have to swear to anything. Just tell the folks at your polling place you want the Republican ballot. They have to let you vote in the Republican Primary if you want to. Hey, our ticket is largely set, with Kaine and Deeds. (That middle one will sort out.) This time around, we need to be helping our Republican friends out. There will be two names in the Republican ballot for Governor--Jerry Kilgore and George Fitch. Lord, have mercy! What must we do?
Since most jurisdictions in the state will have a Democratic primary ballot that only includes the contest for Lieutenant Governor (there are a handful of General Assembly nominations being contested, as there are in the Republican primary), this suggestion could prove tempting to a lot of Democratic voters -- at least those who are particularly attuned to state politics.

Day's proposal has merit because Goldwater Republicans like me would like to see Fitch get beefed-up vote totals. The social-conservative/big-government wing of the Republican party (which, alas, is in ascendancy at the moment) needs to be sent a signal of discontent among GOP voters. For the same reason, I would like to see the challengers to pro-tax Republicans -- Steve Chapman, Chris Craddock, Shaun Kenney, and Chris Oprison -- get as many votes as possible. (Note I do not include Mark Jarvis, the challenger to Delegate Ed Scott, in that list. Jarvis is a theocratic wingnut who deserves to be trounced.)

Day's proposal offers mischief because it will throw a spanner into the future calculations of Republican strategists and campaign consultants. (And, come to think of it, those of Democratic strategists and consultants, too.)

Why? Virginia voters do not register by party. The only way the political parties can identify potential voters in their respective camps, short of massive phone-banking or door-to-door surveys, is by separating voters according to their primary election voting patterns. Voters who consistently vote in Republican primaries are, therefore, known as "hard Rs," while those who vote more often than not in Republican primaries are known as "soft Rs." (Democratic voters are the same.)

The dual primary on June 14 offered both parties a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get solid data on the party preferences of primary voters. For the first time in memory, voters will be forced to choose one party or another on election day, and their preference will be marked in pollbooks that are made available to candidates and parties after the election is over. Both parties assumed that crossover voting would be kept at a minimum under these circumstances.

In some districts, crossover voting might still have happened regardless of Barnie Day's suggestions. For instance, in the 57th House District, there are three Democrats facing off to succeed Mitch Van Yahres, in a primary election that is the de facto general election for that safe-by-design Democratic seat. (There will be a token Republican candidate in November, Tom McCrystal.) That means Rich Collins, Kim Tingley, or David Toscano will be the new Delegate from Charlottesville and its close-in Albemarle County suburbs. Similarly, the 30th District is a safe Republican seat with no Democrat declared for the November election, so the winner between Jarvis and Scott will represent that district in the General Assembly.

A statewide wave of crossover voting could dash the hopes of Virginia political strategists from both parties. But it could be a boost for small-government conservatives who like Fitch's approach to fiscal and governance issues.

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