Texas Primary Election
by: Laurie Johnson, March 2, 2006 12:03:00 am
The primary races are intended to select the final candidate for the Republican and Democratic parties. But this year, two high-profile independent candidates are in the mix and political scientists say voters need to know the implications of the primary election. University of Houston Political Science Professor Richard Murray says in Texas we have what is called a modified, closed primary.
"If you vote in a primary, you then cannot switch and vote in the other party's run-off, nor can you sign a petition to place an independent candidate on the ballot."
Normally that's not an issue because the races typically are fought between the democrats and republicans. But this year, Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman are running for governor, both as independents trying to get on the ballot. Anyone who votes in the primary can't sign the petition for either of those candidates. Texas Southern University Political Science Professor Sanders Anderson says the primary system was designed to protect the people.
"The first formal candidate nomination was a caucus, that's where a leader sort of chose it. Then, of course, we had the conventions and there's a spectre of smoke-filled back rooms. And around the turn of the 19th century, the progressive era, the primaries were instituted. And they were instituted as a way of getting more people, more grass-roots individuals involved in the primary, and choosing a candidate rather than having it chosen by leaders of a party or through some sort of process."
But the very system that's designed to protect voters could actually backfire on those who want more candidates on the ballot. Murray says this is the first time in his 40 years of experience in Texas politics where voters were faced with this situation.
"We do have serious independent candidates running for governor. No one's been elected as an independent, I understand, since Sam Houston in 1859. But we do have Carole Keeton Strayhorn and, of course, Kinky Friedman, both planning to get on the ballot in November by gathering petitions and they have to wait until the primaries are over and then go out to find registered voters who did not cast a ballot in these -- in these venues."
Murray says that still won't be too difficult because not that many people vote in the primaries anyway. He says this is less of an issue for the candidates than it is for the voters. He expects both Strayhorn and Friedman to make it onto the November ballot, but he says as a political scientist, people should know the implications of their vote in the primaries. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.