Monday, March 5, 2012 at 4:46 PM
New polls are now giving Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a slight edge over Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination in Ohio. Last week, at this time, Santorum held a seven point or more lead among likely GOP voters in the buckeye state. But few of the polls account for Democrats who may "cross-over" to vote in the Republican Primary. As Statehouse News Correspondent Jo Ingles reports, it's pretty easy to do.
Most of the polls that have been conducted in Ohio survey Republican voters. Democrats and Independents are not asked generally asked to participate in those polls. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t ask for a Republican ballot and vote in the GOP primary…if they wanted to. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted explains how that could happen.
Husted - Ohio has a process by which you declare the political party you are affiliated with by whether you vote in the primary for that particular party. A lot of other states have it where you fill out a form and that’s how you declare what party you are from. Ohio’s system is one where the burden is really on the voter on election day on the basis of what primary they choose to vote in.
In the Democratic primary four years ago when the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was still at a fevered pitch, some Ohioans chose to vote in that race, even though they didn’t consider themselves a member of the party. The tables could turn this time around since it’s the Republican Presidential ticket that ‘s attracting attention. Husted says the oath or pledge that Ohioans used to sign when switching parties is not required of everyone anymore.
Husted – You can still be challenged but there would have to be reason for the poll worker to challenge you. Frankly this has not been a problem in Ohio. It’s worked pretty well for the most part. And the interpretation is that we are trying to make it easier on the voter and give people the opportunity if they would like to become part of a political party or switch parties that it is fairly easy for them to do.
But Ohioans who vote in the primary on the GOP or Democratic slate need to keep one thing in mind. Once that’s happened, you are considered a member of that party. Political Science Professor John Green, Director of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, says voting in a partisan primary yields consequences.
Green - Well for people who are interested in being involved in party politics, it can be a sense of embarrassment for voting in the other party’s primary. I think mostly though it is symbolic because that individual is counted as being an active member of the other political party and they will get a lot of mail from that party and from interest groups that pursue those particular parties.
But diehard Democrats who don’t have much to vote for could cross over to vote in the GOP primary. A group tried to organize a plan like that in Michigan, instructing Democrats to vote for Santorum because he’d be easier for President Obama to defeat in the fall. That effort was not successful and Romney won Michigan. Would a similar attempt work here? Green doesn’t think so.
Green – My experience in Ohio is that there’s relatively very little strategic or tactical cross party voting. That doesn’t occur very often. For one thing, organizing it requires an awful lot of effort and most people would rather organize something for their own party rather than try to interfere with the other party’s primary.
Yet every primary, there’s the fear that crossover voting will be just enough to give one candidate the edge they need to win. In the Republican primary this year, Romney already has an edge. Santorum is not on the ballot to get delegates in 3 congressional districts….even if he wins there. And Romney has momentum from his recent wins in other states. Plus Romney has spent a lot of money on advertising and has a well run organization. That’s why, all things considered, it might take more than a few crossover votes to make a difference in the end.
Government/Politics, Statehouse News Bureau
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