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South Carolina GOP chair calls for closed presidential primaries after Democrats’ calls to vote for Nikki Haley

Columbia, South Carolina – The chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, Drew McKissick, has made a bold call to end the state’s tradition of open presidential primaries in what appears to be a significant political development in South Carolina. This move comes as presidential campaigns progress past South Carolina, aiming to restrict future primary elections to only registered party members. The suggestion aims to overhaul the current system where any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, can participate in either the Republican or Democratic primary, provided they vote in only one.

South Carolina GOP chair calls for closed presidential primaries after Democrats’ calls to vote for Nikki Haley

Last weekend’s primaries in the focus

The push for closed primaries gained momentum following the Republican primary last weekend. The super PAC “PrimaryPivot” had encouraged Democrats and Independents, who abstained from South Carolina’s Democratic primary, to vote for former Gov. Nikki Haley in the Republican primary. South Carolina’s law permits such cross-party voting, sparking debates over the integrity of party primaries. McKissick expressed his frustration, emphasizing the importance of the party selecting its candidate without external influence.

“The most important thing that a party can do is pick a candidate to put on the ballot in November. And why, whenever we do that most important thing that we do, we can’t limit it to people who specifically support our party? It makes absolutely no sense at all,” South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said.

A bill was introduced in the State House, but support remains questionable

To facilitate this change, a bill, H.3695, has been introduced in the State House, which, if passed, would require South Carolina voters to register with a political party or remain independent. However, only registered party members could vote in their party’s primaries. This proposal aligns with the South Carolina Republican Party’s platform, which McKissick has vocally supported.

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Despite the Republican supermajority in the State House and significant control over local elected positions, the bill faces opposition. Notably, Gov. Henry McMaster, himself a former South Carolina Republican Party chair, stands against closing the primaries. McMaster downplays the risk of significant cross-party voting intended to disrupt primary outcomes, a concern among some Republicans.

“Although people have theorized that there may be masses coming over and voting in the Republican primary just to cause mischief, so far in our history, it has not happened,” Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters last week.

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The proposed shift to closed primaries has not won any favor from Democratic lawmakers, and the South Carolina Democratic Party has expressed support for maintaining open primaries, despite opposing efforts to sway Democratic voters to support Haley in the Republican primary.



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