By Scott Tibbs, May 6, 2008
A Republican candidate for commissioner in Tippecanoe County lost the chance to vote for herself when she asked for a Democrat primary ballot so she could vote in the hotly contested presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama. According to the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, Taletha Coles said "she wanted to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee but also vote for Republicans in the county races."
Indiana's primary does not work that way. You can either vote in the Democrat Party's primary or you can vote in the Republican Party's primary. You cannot get a split ballot. This is a basic premise of how primary elections are conducted in Indiana, and as a candidate for elective office Coles should have known better. Even if I agreed with Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos, I knew voting in the Democrat primary was not an option because my name appears on the ballot twice, for precinct committeeman and delegate to state convention. I also wanted to vote for Carl Lamb, Jeff Ellington, Andy Dodds and Jeff Huston.
It would be a spectacular irony should Coles lose by a single vote. I admit to knowing nothing about Tippecanoe County politics, but supporting Clinton or Obama indicates that Coles is a Republican in Name Only (RINO) and the GOP would be better off if she lost. I am no fan of John McCain, but I can't see how someone who considers herself to be a Republican can support either Democrat running for President, especially Mrs. Clinton. It is one thing to vote for the Libertarian candidate, but Hillary Clinton?
Of course, had Coles followed Indiana Code and voted in her own party's primary, her ability to vote for herself would not have been in question.
Crossover voting has become a hot topic in Monroe County. Greg Travis, husband of Monroe County Commissioner candidate Sophia Travis, has become increasingly hysterical as the primary has approached. Mr. Travis has already promised to post the names and addresses of Republicans who cross over and vote in the Democrat Party's primary in his Bloomington Alternative column. Travis also wrote the following on a local political discussion forum, regarding a Monroe County resident who called into the Rush Limbaugh program and said he was participating in Operation Chaos:
At some point, doesn't the radio station have a responsibility to alert law enforcement? If Rush Limbaugh were instead urging people to throw Molotov Cocktails through the front window of Democratic party headquarters, and Mike the Republican Felon called in and said he and his whole family were putting bombs together to go and bomb the Democratic party headquarters, would the radio station do nothing?
This hyperbole is just plain laughable. Mr. Travis is actually comparing a violent - and potentially lethal - crime with casting a ballot in the wrong primary. Does he have any idea how he comes across with that statement? I agree with Mr. Travis that state code is clear: someone who votes for Republicans is permitted to vote only in the Republican primary. It also works the other way around. But a Republican voting in the Democrat Party's primary is not even in the same solar system as arson, terrorism and attempted murder. That's just plain stupid and indicates Mr. Travis is paranoid his wife will lose to Iris Kiesling today.
When asked "how can one actually capture or forestall someone's attempt to subvert the voting law for primaries", Mr. Travis wrote:
By calling the cops and saying "This person just indicated that they intend to commit a felony. I don't know where, I just know they told me they would."
I assume if someone called into the Afternoon Edition and told you he was going to burn down the house of a prominent Democrat, you'd call the cops, no? Even if you didn't know which prominent Democrat?
That is just plain stupid. What exactly does Greg Travis suggest the police should do in this situation? Should they go to the caller's house and arrest him because he intends to vote in the Democrat Party's primary? Note, again, that the husband of Monroe County Commissioner candidate Sophia Travis is comparing an act of terrorism with voting in the other party's primary, going to the extreme of suggesting that the response to both acts be the same.
The premise of this argument is that voting in the wrong party's primary is a "felony", a position supported by IU Law professor Patrick Baude. Others who have studied and are familiar with Indiana election law (including long-time Republican County Clerk Jim Fielder) are not convinced that it is a "felony". I've read the code myself, and it does not explicitly spell out that this type of crossover voting is actually a "felony". This is a clear attempt to intimidate voters by threatening them with a politically-motivated prosecution. That is something that I would expect to see in a banana republic, not in Bloomington, Indiana.
While Greg Travis may be hysterically overreacting to the thought of Republicans costing his wife today's primary election, this should not be a subject of debate in the first place. Primary elections should be for parties to choose their nominees, not an opportunity for the parties to sabotage each other. What Limbaugh and his supporters do not seem to realize is that the same tactic being used against Democrats now can be used against Republicans in the future. It's been established that independents and Democrats crossed over to vote for John McCain 8 years ago. Would Limbaugh defend a reverse Operation Chaos in 2012? Somehow, I doubt it.