Interest in ending open primaries increases amongst Texas GOP

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Ahead of the March 5 primary elections in Texas, leaders in the state GOP are seeking to close off primary contests to registered Republicans only.

Among the 2024 propositions on the primary ballot for Texas Republican voters includes a proposal that would prohibit Democrats and Independents from voting on a GOP ticket. The yes or no question will ask voters if the Texas GOP should “restrict voting in the Republican Primary to only registered Republicans.”

Leaders like Matt Rinaldi — chair of the Republican Party of Texas — have been advocating for closed primaries for years, but there is increased attention on the issue due to the ongoing presidential primary.

Most recently, GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has voiced her desire to win more votes in states with open primaries like Texas, which allow voters to cast their ballot for either party, regardless of their affiliation.

“It’s important for Republican voters to know that the candidates they choose and that their party chooses to represent them in a general election is chosen by Republican voters and not Democrats crossing over,” Rinaldi told Nexstar. “The opposing party messing around in your primaries defeats that purpose.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 states — including Texas — allow voters to choose which partisan ballot they will vote on in primaries, regardless of their registered party affiliation. Only eight states have fully closed primaries, in which voters can only participate in the party ballots that correspond with their partisan registration.

Brian Smith — a politics professor at St. Edwards University — said the open primary system is beneficial to more moderate or independent voters who can swing left or right depending on the candidates and issues.

“If you have a fully closed primary and you’re registered Independent, you’re not going to be able to vote in that primary so you have no say of who the nominee is going to be,” Smith said. “And in states like Texas, that are gerrymandered beyond belief, the primary is often the general election. So if you’re excluded from the primary, it doesn’t really matter if you vote in the general election.”

This is a developing story, check back for updates. Capitol Correspondent Monica Madden will have a full report on KXAN News at 6

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