A House panel advanced a bill Wednesday to require S.C. voters to register by political party before casting a ballot in a primary election.
Currently, any registered voter can cast a ballot in one primary per election cycle without having to self-identify with a political party.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, said 28 other states already require some level of party registration which allows political parties to control their own destinies.
“Primaries allow a party to choose who they want to represent them in the general election. They should have some say in who is allowed to vote in their primaries,” Smith said.
Under a pending amendment to the bill, each of the state’s nine political parties could choose whether to restrict who can vote in their primaries.
It is unknown the cost of enacting the new rule, according to the State Election Commission which has not done a fiscal impact study on the bill yet.
Bill opponents say the change will hurt independent voters who sometimes vote in Democratic primaries and sometimes vote in Republican ones.
“It locks them out and they will have no voice,” said Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, who cast the sole dissenting vote against the bill.
Brett Bursey, director of the Progressive Network, a liberal non-profit, said 60 of 124 House members had no general election opponents last year. Thus, their races were decided in a primary.
“To limit who can vote in those primaries is to deny some voters any say in who represents them,” Bursey said.
The bill now moves to full committee for consideration.
Read more in tomorrow’s The State.