After approximately an hour of heated discussion, the Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee (CEC) voted to hold a joint primary election with the Democrat Party in 2022. Although the two parties have held joint primaries in Montgomery County for decades, some activists in the party have argued that the primaries should be held separately.
Several months back, the Montgomery County Republican Party appointed a special committee led by Precinct Chair George Hyde (Spring) to research the proposal to transition to separate primaries. At the CEC meeting Tuesday night, Hyde presented his findings to the full body of the CEC.
According to Hyde, the proposal has been received coldly by local officials. He and other party officials met with Montgomery County Election Administrator Suzie Harvey earlier this year to discuss the proposal, which she resisted. Hyde said he also brought up separating the primaries to County Judge Mark Keough, who, “nearly threw me out of his office,” he joked.
Hyde’s main arguments for moving to separate primaries are:
- Republicans shouldn’t be required to pick up slack for Democrat judges who fail to show up.
- At some polling places, there is considerable “tension” between Republican and Democrat judges.
- Some voters are uncomfortable indicating the primary in which they want to vote.
Hyde was told that completely separate primaries wouldn’t be possible until 2024. However, a hybrid between joint and separate primaries could be possible in 2022. Although the primaries would still be held at the same location, under the hybrid system there would be two separate check-in tables and separate e-poll books. However, the two parties would still share a Judges Booth Controller (JBC).
The problem is that Montgomery County currently doesn’t have enough e-poll books for each party to have their own in every single voting precinct. In order to have separate primaries, precincts would have to be combined. Combined precincts would mean fewer voting locations, causing many voters to have to travel further to vote.
After Hyde gave his presentation, Precinct Chair Scott Baker (Willis) took to the podium and made a motion to continue holding joint primaries. Baker said rushing into a hybrid primary system by next year would be a “clustermess”. “We don’t have any pan to deal with this, and we’re voting on it tonight,” said Baker.
“So you’re for helping the Democrats!” interjected Precinct Chair Dale Inman (Conroe).
What followed was nearly an hour of chaotic debate, moderated by GOP County Chairman Bryan Christ, who fielded parliamentary questions and motions with courtesy and grace.
Precinct Chair Jon Webb (Woodforest) spoke in favor of Baker’s motion to continue joint primaries, noting that it is hard enough to get voters to the polls without the mass confusion which would result from consolidating precincts. He also argued that joint primaries allow Republicans to hold the other party accountable. “Keep an eye on the opposition,” said Webb. “Keep them close.”
Inman, an advocate of separate primaries, said that Republicans should be helping Democrats run their primaries. He argued that if a Democrat election judge didn’t show up, then he didn’t have a problem with Democrat voters not being able to vote in the primary in that precinct. “I’m from Chicago,” declared Inman, saying that Republicans should play hardball like the Democrat machine in The Windy City.
Last to speak on the issue was Precinct Chair Robert Coats (April Sound), whose patience was clearly wearing thin. “It’s idiocy that we’re even having this debate,” Coats asseverated.
Coats noted that as an election worker, it is his sworn duty to assist all voters, regardless of party affiliation. “You take all voters all the time, you’re sworn to uphold the constitution,” he said. “If the rolls were reversed, you would you want the Democrats to do that to you,” chided Coats.
Coats called the whole issue a “misdirection of the party’s energy”, arguing that, “we need to focus more on messaging and on winning elections.”
Coats then raised a point of order against even putting the issue to a vote, however, he was overruled by Christ, who moved forward with the vote.
Bakers motion to continue holding joint primaries in 2022 passed with 34 of the precinct chairs present voting in favor. Those opposed were not counted after it became obvious that the motion would pass.
Now that the CEC has voted to move forward with a joint primary, the next step will be for Christ to sign the necessary paperwork with the elections office. The date for the 2022 primary has not yet been set due to redistricting. However, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, voting will be business as usual- at least for the next election.
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