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Texas GOP advances rule to close party primaries

A Republican Party of Texas Rules Committee has advanced a measure to close its primary elections in the state.

A full vote on the issue is expected at the party's state convention on Friday.

Currently, Texas is a state with an open primary system, meaning anyone can vote in a primary regardless of their party affiliation. But if the R.P.T. gets the state legislature to close the primaries, only registered Republicans would be able to vote in Republican primaries.

In a 26-to-4 vote Monday night, the Republican Party of Texas' rules committee advanced a rule to close Republican primaries to only those registered with the party. If passed by the state convention Friday, the move would still need to be passed by the state legislature in 2025.

"It does require a step which would be a little conflictual in Texas," Rice University political science professor Dr. Mark Jones said. "In that, in order to have closed primaries, you have to change voter registration to require people to register to vote as an independent, or as a democrat, republican or the member of some other party."

States like New York already have closed primaries, while Texas is one of about a dozen states with open primaries. But Dr. Jones says it's not uncommon for states to make changes.

"Many states have gone from closed primaries to open primaries from open primaries to closed primaries," Dr. Jones said. "from closed primaries to semi-closed primaries, the whole gamut."

In a press release, R.P.T. Chairman Matt Rinaldi says multiple primaries this election cycle would have quote, "turned out differently if Democrats were not allowed to interfere."

He says nearly nine percent of voters in the March primary for Dade Phelan, for example, were known Democrats. That race is now heading to a runoff election.

"There are very few examples of that occurring, which isn't to say they never occur," Dr. Jones said. "By and large, that's the exception, not the rule. But given that it's occurring right as the Republican Convention is taking place, it may have an outsized impact on what resolutions are voted out of the convention."

Former Harris County G.O.P. Chair Paul Simpson opposes closing the primaries.

"... and so the state parties are actively getting involved in taking sides in primaries and I think that's a mistake," Simpson said.

Dr. Jones says there wouldn't be a major effect, but closed primaries do lead to more partisan candidates...

"In a state like Texas, especially with our current districting arrangement, 90% of elections are decided in the primaries." Dr. Jones said.

But Simpson is afraid it will keep the party from growing.

"I think aside from all kinds of legal complications, it's counter to what we've managed to do the last 40 years to become a majority party," Simpson said.

Dr. Jones says if you have to register with a party before you can vote, it could push away people who would otherwise participate.

"There's going to be a non-trivial number of both Republicans and Democrats, while they regularly vote in the primary and identify with the party, don't want to be registered publicly as a registered Democrat or a registered Republican," Dr. Jones said. "either for personal or professional reasons."

While Rinaldi says the move is in line with primary voters who approved such a move back in March, Simpson says the party needs to be open to new voters.

"But you've got to show an openness and not make it difficult for people to join your party," Simpson said. "Donald Trump's brought a lot of new people into the party and South Texas is showing it, and we need to make that easier, not harder."

High Plains Pundit reached out to the Texas GOP and Chairman Rinaldi for comment but did not receive a response.

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