According to a Michigan Republican State Committee (MRSC) member, Romney backers in statewide Republican leadership roles, including the governor and attorney general, pushed for an open Michigan primary. These open primary rules allow voters to vote in either party’s primary without declaring any party affiliation.
As the governing body of the state Republican Party in Michigan, the state committee every four years determines the methodology of awarding delegates in the presidential contest. Although Michigan voters are not registered according to party affiliation, political parties can take steps to make it more difficult for political opponents to have a say in the candidate nominating process. Such options include selecting delegates through a state caucus or state convention. In those circumstances, the Republican Party enjoys great leeway in deciding who can vote.
The Michigan Republican State Committee chose a different route—a completely open Republican primary. Such a primary is funded by the state and requires approval from the legislature and the governor. The occurrence of cross-over party voting is minimal in a presidential election year with two non-incumbent candidates. Members of both parties are enthusiastic in having a say in selecting a party nominee. This year, however, the Democrat Party in Michigan chose not hold a primary. Instead, a caucus will be held later this year, almost surely approving Barrack Obama as nominee.
Even with a primary, parties can diminish the occurrence of cross-over voting by requiring voters to sign a document affirming they are a Republican. Such a document would be entered into the public record. According to our source, the state committee members were informed prior to the adoption of the primary rules that Governor Snyder, a Romney endorser, would only support a public primary with no party affiliation. To be clear this meant that a voter could cast a ballot in the Republican primary with no previous party affiliation and without any need to disclose his identification with the Republican Party even on election day!
Governor Snyder’s staff whipped Republican statewide legislators into line on the open primary option. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Romney’s current state chair, joined the governor in whipping Republican elected officials into line on this. Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, another prominent Romney supporter, joined in this concerted effort to achieve an open primary in 2012, communicating to every state committee member the governor’s position. Saul Anuzis, Republican national committee-man for Michigan and Romney supporter, also played a significant role in building support for the open primary.
According to our source, “with a large TNT bomb they blew the door off the hinges to allow Democrats to come in and vote today.” Who opposed this open primary rule? According to the MRSC member we talked to, die hard conservatives voted NO on the open primary because they knew anything other than a caucus or convention could allow liberals and Democrats to play a large role in selecting the Republican nominee. In the end, Romney’s supporters on the committee from Wayne County and Oakland County won out, believing the influx of Democrats and independents would boost Romney’s performance.
Romney today is bemoaning the possibility of Democrats influencing then outcome of today’s election. He should recall it was his own prominent establishment Republican supporters across Michigan who made this possible.