Carter County GOP chair answers questions about party primary laws

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
Carter County Republican Party Chair Abby Morris-Frye responded to an email asking questions about the recent law mandating the posting of a sign that explains who is qualified to vote in a party primary under state law.
Carter County Democratic Party Chair Diane Wilde did not respond to a similar request by deadline.

As there is no party registration process for voters, how would you determine if someone is a “bona fide member of or affiliated with” the Republican Party?
The bylaws of the Tennessee Republican Party provide a definition of what is considered by the Party to be a “bona fide” member. The first part of that definition is any individual who is actively involved in the Tennessee Republican Party, their County Republican Party, or any recognized auxiliary organization of either. The current recognized auxiliary organizations are the Tennessee Federated Republican Women, Tennessee Young Republican Federation, and Tennessee College Republicans. To determine someone’s status as “bona fide” the term “actively involved in” is broadly defined as the donation of time, support, resources, or financial contributions to the Party or election activities for Republican candidates. The second part of the definition provides two pathways. Either the individual has voted in at least three of the four most recent Statewide Republican Primary Elections, or they are vouched for in writing as a bona fide Republican by an officer of the Tennessee Republican Party or a member of the County Executive Committee of the Party in the County where they reside. This definition of bona fide is the same as the one used to determine a person’s eligibility to run as a Republican candidate during an election.

What would be your steps if someone were to challenge a voter’s qualifications to cast a ballot in the GOP primary?
If a challenge were to take place, the Carter County Republican Party would review our records to determine if the individual was active in our organization, speak to the individual whose status was challenged regarding their involvement with the Party, and review the voting records at the Carter County Election Commission to determine if the individual had voted in at least three of the four most recent statewide Republican Primary Elections. If that individual has not voted in at least three of those elections, we would see if a member of the County Executive Committee would vouch for the individual in writing. If the voter meets the criteria, then they would be considered a bona fide member of the Republican Party.

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What impact do you believe the posting of the sign will have on voter turnout?
I do not foresee any impact on voter turnout here in Carter County due to the posting of this statute at polling places. In some areas of the country, you may see cross-over voting by people wishing to impact the outcome of their opponent party’s Primary election, but I do not believe that is an issue we have here. Tennessee has been ranked the number one state in the country for election integrity because of the laws and regulations that we have in place and because elections are a bi-partisan effort in Tennessee. The County Election Commissions are comprised of members of both parties, as are the poll workers, canvassing boards, and election officers. There is a tremendous amount of oversight by both Republicans and Democrats that serves to keep our elections honest and transparent. The Carter County Election Commission, our Administrator of Elections Tracy Tanner Harris, and the elections staff work tremendously hard to make sure those laws and regulations are followed so that we can trust in the election results.

As a party leader, what are your thoughts on the posting of the sign, as well as the referenced statute?
I am in favor of posting the sign because I believe all voters should be well-informed and that includes knowing about the laws surrounding elections. Because Tennessee has open Primary elections, meaning voters are not required to register as a member of a political party to participate in Primary elections, I believe the statute provides an added layer of security in helping to keep our elections honest and transparent.

How long have you served as county party chairwoman? Do you know of any past challenges?
I have been an officer with the Carter County Republican Party since 2020 and I have served as Chairwoman since March of 2023. In reviewing our records and speaking with previous CCRP officers, I am unaware of any challenges that have been made in the past to a voter’s participation in a Republican Primary here in Carter County.