Don’t coopt the voting rights movement to whine, “independent” voters.


Wherein I express my annoyance with a certain type of holier-than-thou “independent” voter”

The New York primary took place Tuesday and a big story about it, at least on cable news and social media, was how massive numbers of “independent” voters suffered “voter suppression” due to not being able to cast a vote in the partisan primary. The deadline to change one’s party affiliation in New York (as opposed to a new voter registrant, which was last month) was all the way back in October.

I will say, from a purely partisan standpoint, that such an early deadline is a terrible rule as it impedes party building. Most people are paying little attention to the Presidential race a full year out from it, so New York political parties who agreed to the onerous deadline out of concern for voters from one party tampering with another party’s primary elections were missing the forest for the trees. Those kind of shenanigans rarely change outcomes anyway so it’s not a good idea for parties to foreclose their ability to use the Presidential primary as a way to recruit new registrants via conversion.

But those are the current rules in New York, and while I understand there have been issues with people alleging that their registrations were changed without their consent (as is known to have happened in Arizona with DMV and other clerical errors), in most cases the sturm und drang over supposed “voter disenfranchisement” has come from people (from New York and elsewhere) who have willingly opted out of registering with a party but who still think they’re entitled to have a say in picking the leadership of the very parties they disdain as filthy corrupt scum. It’s amazing, really.

I realize there are many reasons a voter may choose to be unaffiliated with a political party and not all are bad (most are, though, IMHO). And it is entirely your prerogative as a voter to do that. But unless you happen to be in a state where you are graciously allowed to interfere (my description) in partisan candidate selection, you do not get to have it both ways. If you chose not to register with a party in a closed primary state (such as New York or Arizona), then you relinquished your opportunity to vote in that primary. That is not voter suppression and you are not disenfranchised because of it.

Filling in a party preference on the voter registration form is a very simple matter that enables you to vote in the primary. It’s not a blood oath or a promise of your firstborn. In a closed primary state, it’s an obvious wise move, as the blogger Atrios explains:

As I said, I think New York’s deadline is ridiculous, but requiring people to make the effort to switch parties a week or a month out isn’t. And in closed primary states, don’t be an idiot and register as an independent. Nobody cares. You haven’t stuck it to The Man by asserting your independence. You’ve just made your life harder if you ever do want to vote in a primary.

Believe you me, Arizonans, the people who are most invested in wanting you to shun “party labels” (especially you liberal leaners) and be “independent”, thus ceding collective power, can most definitely be described as The Man.

There is perhaps no opinion of mine that gets people riled up more than my take on “independent” voters. Sorry, I just don’t find that the vast majority of them that I encounter live up to the hype about them as free-thinking, objective, special snowflakes who give more careful consideration to their political choices than we yucky partisans do. Quite the opposite, very often. So I don’t give them the tender sympathy they’ve grown to expect in so many quarters. Whatever. As I said, be an unaffiliated voter if you want. Your choice. Just don’t act like it makes you John Lewis.


  1. That is a remarkably incoherent argument, Cap’n.

    As Donna said, registering for a party isn’t some blood oath or contract you cannot get out of. You can’t proudly proclaim on the one hand that you’re “Independent” then complain that you’re not invited to the team meetings.

    It’s akin to going to a bowling alley on league night and complaining that as an ‘independent’ bowler, you should be allowed to bowl for any team you want for that night.

    If you feel that it’s unfair that independents pay (a miniscule portion) of their taxes to have primaries, then fight to make the parties pay for the primaries out of their own money.

    Just don’t whinge about there being too much money in politics, then…

    • independents should vote in the independent presidential primary that they pay their taxes to fund right? oh thats right the partys don’t allow independent primaries. democratic party establishment forget that the democratic party is their to serve the people not the other way around as the republic party has just done in colorado to prevent the people from voting.

  2. I am a democrat for 45 years and your views don’t represent me or many if not most democrats. More important then that independents help pay for the primaries. We fought a war about taxation without representation. After reading this no wonder 70% white voters vote republican in arizona.

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