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ALGOP asks lawmakers to close primaries, require party registration

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Republican Party leadership on Saturday voted to support requiring party registration and closing primary elections in the state. 

Whether that happens and exactly what the registration process looks like would be up to the Alabama Legislature.

“We believe that only those voters who are declared Republicans should decide who the Republican nominee will be in Alabama elections at the county, state and federal levels,” the resolution approved at the annual ALGOP summer meeting says. 

The resolution alone won’t close primary elections, that will take action by the Legislature that will meet in March for its 2023 regular session. The resolution asks lawmakers to act next year in order to require registration in the 2024 election cycle.

Lee County Probate Judge Bill English asked how people would declare their party and warned that if in effect in 2024, thousands of voters could be turned away. 

The resolution does not detail exactly what the party wants the primary process to look like and ALGOP chairman said that would be up to the Legislature.

“The implementation of a voter registration system is always the hardest part until you get it in place,” Wahl told Alabama Daily News after the meeting. “That being said, we’re not the first state to address this issue.”

If approved by the Legislature, Wahl said registration could take several election cycles to put into place.

Alabama is one of 15 states with open primaries, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. Nine states have closed primaries that require voters to register with parties prior to voting. In between those are states with partially closed and partially open primaries, which allow parties to make decisions each cycle on who will be allowed to participate.

Nine states’s primaries are “open to unaffiliated voters,” but keep registered Democrats or Republicans out of the other party’s contest.

The argument for closing primaries gained traction after the May 24 election, when three-term state Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, lost to primary challenger Jay Hovey, also of Auburn, by one vote. Whatley challenged the result and alleged Democrats influenced the election. That challenge became a five-week saga for the party that eventually declared Hovey the winner. 

Congressman Mo Brooks also claimed that Democrats crossed over to vote against him in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, which he lost to Katie Britt in a runoff.

The resolution also decried Democrats’ ability to participate in GOP primaries.

“… open primaries have led to Democrat voters’ ability to legally cross over party lines and vote in the primary of the Republican Party and influence who the Republican nominee will be the general election…”

Other resolutions approved Saturday:

  • Support actions on state and local levels to lower the costs and simplify the process of adopting babies and children. Citing the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, the party resolution says “the state of Alabama must plan to assist mothers who want to keep their babies and implement family friendly adoption procedures for those who allow their children to be adopted.” 
  • Encourage the Alabama departments of corrections and pardons and paroles “that all persons before being released from incarceration or released on probation or parole to complete and receive a GED” or equivalent work force training. 
  • Urge Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature to “secure and protect parental rights” by “declaring every parent has a fundamental, natural right to direct the upbringing, education, care and custody of a parent’s child” and any restriction of those rights “requires a compelling governmental interest.”

The party also condemned the recent raid of former President Donald Trump’s home last week and the “overreach” of the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI. It also commended the U.S. Supreme Court on recent decisions, including June’s Dobbs decision on abortion.

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