Super Tuesday (March1) is one of the most heavily covered events in the presidential election process. With over a dozen contests and a quarter of the delegates up for grabs on the Democratic side and nearly 30 percent of the delegates on the Republican side, Super Tuesday can pave a clear path to the nomination for the candidate who can win the most states.
In fact, since 1988, every candidate who has won the majority of states on Super Tuesday has gone on to win their party’s nomination. This year, there are some major states up for grabs as well, including Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alaska (D), Arkansas, Vermont, Wyoming (R), and Alabama.
However, while the media’s focus remains on the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties, the people who are often overlooked are the over 5 million registered independents in these states. The mass media seldom takes a closer look at how exactly candidates are picked in the first stage of the presidential election process and the millions of voters who are completely disenfranchised or have their choices severely limited because they refuse to affiliate with a private political party.
In Colorado and Alaska, for example, the parties have closed off their caucuses, requiring voters to register two months in advance in order to receive a party ballot. These states have a large portion of independent voters (35% and 54%, respectively). If any of these voters missed the January 4 deadline and wish to vote, they’re out of luck.
And after a controversial decision by the RNC, Republicans will not be conducting their caucus in Colorado at all, meaning Republican voters in the state will not be able to voice their preference either. Likewise, in Wyoming, presidential preference polls are not conducted on the Republican side because the delegates are unbound, meaning the will of party voters in the state doesn’t matter.
Oklahoma has a semi-closed primary system. Registered independents will be able to vote in the Democratic primary but not the Republican primary, since the party will not allow it. So, unless a voter registered with the Republican Party by February 5, they may be among the 12 percent of the state’s registered voting population who are faced with the choice of voting in the Democratic primary or not at all.
In states like Tennessee and Georgia, party affiliation is not required to participate in the primary, but voters will be required to pledge their allegiance to the party they choose or declare an oath of intent to affiliate with the party on primary election day. The Republican Party of Virginia initially planned a similar oath for their party’s presidential primary, but cancelled those plans after facing immense pressure and backlash.
Many of the states on Super Tuesday actually do not require party affiliation to participate in presidential primary elections. However, like in Tennessee and Texas, many open partisan primary states require voters to choose one of two party ballots on election day and the party they choose is the party they have to affiliate with throughout the primary process. This means they cannot switch to another party’s ballot in the event of runoffs in statewide or congressional primary contests.
Voters are bound to the candidates of a single party not only in the presidential contest, but all statewide and congressional races. So the question that is on the minds of many voters is, how open is the process really if it still forces affiliation at the ballot box?