The outcome of the Mississippi Republican runoff election between U.S. Senator Thad Cochran and state Senator Chris McDaniel has sparked controversy within the GOP. McDaniel and his campaign are currently looking into voting "irregularities" that occurred on Tuesday and may challenge the results in court.
Meanwhile, some within the Republican Party -- particularly tea party and conservative grassroots activists -- are not happy that Cochran was able to broaden his outreach to non-GOP voters. Analysts say Cochran was successful in the runoff despite trailing McDaniel in the polls because he was able to appeal to moderate and black Democrats who did not vote in the June 3 primary.
On Wednesday, reporters asked U.S. Senator and potential presidential candidate Rand Paul what he thought of the election outcome. Earlier in June, Paul declined to endorse either candidate in the runoff, opting to stay out of the race. However, on Wednesday, he told reporters that he supports a primary system that allows more voters to participate."I'm for more people voting, not less people voting," Paul said.
Mississippi has an open partisan primary system. Voters do not have to declare party affiliation when they register to vote and can choose between the Republican ballot and the Democratic ballot on primary election day. However, whichever party they choose is the party they have to stick with in the event of a runoff election and they cannot vote for candidates in the other party.
Partisan critics say this leads to "mischief" and cross-party voting. The argument is that members of Party A will vote in the primary of Party B in an effort to select the weaker candidate so that Party A stands a better chance at winning in the general election. While this is certainly possible, in order to have a significant impact, there would need to be an organized grassroots movement to get enough voters to infiltrate the candidate selection process.
An organized grassroots movement like the tea party, perhaps.
If anything, the runoff election in Mississippi showed how effective a more inclusive system can be at forcing candidates and incumbents to appeal to a broader segment of the voting population. After all, elected officials are not elected to represent their party. They are elected to represent their constituents. Voters deserve representatives who actually represent them and not less than 10 percent or even less than 5 percent of the electorate.
Just imagine what adopting an even more inclusive system would do -- a system that focuses on voters and not parties; a system that protects the right all voters have to equal and meaningful participation in the public election process.
The fact that Paul commented on the issue at all is interesting because he has been a darling of the tea party since his 2010 campaign to become the junior senator of Kentucky. However, he is also a smart politician with bigger political ambitions. Lately, Paul has taken steps to appeal to a broader segment of not only GOP voters, but the general electorate as a whole.
Paul mentioned that one of his sons worked on a proposal during summer camp to open primaries in Kentucky to independent voters. Kentucky currently has a closed primary system where only voters registered with a party may participate in primary elections. Paul reiterated his support for a primary system that allow more voters to participate.
"I'm for more people voting," he said.
Photo Source: CQ Roll Call