New Alabama Law Blocks Party Switching Between Primaries and Runoffs

Alabama has a new law that prohibits voters from switching their political party allegiance between a primary and subsequent runoff. Alabama does not require primary voters to register with a political party.
The crossover voting ban is an attempt to prevent voters of one political party from trying to meddle in another party’s runoff – although there is a dispute about how much that actually happens.

“If you vote in one party’s primary, you can’t switch to the other’s runoff,” state Sen. Tom Whatley, the sponsor of the bill.

Whatley said voters aren’t required to cast a primary ballot to be able to vote in the runoff.

Secretary of State John Merrill said the law will be in place for an anticipated September runoff in the high-profile race for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Source: WLTZ-TV/AP

While both parties’ primaries are bloated with candidates, the Republican side of the August fights has a list twice as long and will almost certainly head to a runoff in September. The Alabama Democratic Party has prohibited Republican participation in its primaries for three decades, following the disastrous 1986 Gubernatorial contest, when a judge found their candidate invalid after he had campaigned for-and earned- crossover votes. Crossover voting was encouraged in a very recent Southern Senatorial election: the 2014 Mississippi runoff. Incumbent Thad Cochran had made direct appeals to African American voters (an overwhelmingly Democratic bloc) in his close runoff fight with State Senator Chris McDaniel.