This month another milestone was achieved – the 300th subscriber signed up to receive The Rhea County Republican.  Publishing this newsletter has been challenging at times but it is truly a labor of love and, therefore, well worth the effort.  Your many kind remarks and invaluable suggestions have served as a well spring of inspiration. 

Going forward, I hope you will keep in mind that, in addition to being your source for keeping up with legislation, local happenings in the Rhea County Republican Party, and other information I hope you will find useful, The Rhea County Republican is YOUR forum for sharing your opinions, thoughts, announcements, and information you deem useful to your fellow conservatives.  You are the reason The Rhea County Republican exists.  I hope to hear from you! – Kris Bancroft, Editor


The Rhea County Republican Party will host its annual Reagan Day Dinner on April 13th, 2018.  Details to follow!


Keith Flatness, Chairman                                      Bitsy Gryder, Vice Chairman

Donna Taylor, Secretary                                         Larry Pendergrass, Treasurer

Linda Pendergrass, Vice Treasurer                      Marv Keener, Chaplain

Gary Drinkard, Parliamentarian                            Jim Murphy, PAC Chair


The January meeting of the Rhea County Republican Party will be held on Thursday, January 3rd, at 7:00 PM, at the Rhea County Sheriff’s Training Center, 711 Eagle Ln, Evensville, TN.  We look forward to seeing you there!


Chairman Keith Flatness called the November meeting of the Rhea County Republican Party to order at 7:00 PM.  Marvin Keener led the invocation and Joe Gryder led the pledge to our flag.

The Secretary’s report was read by Debbie Byrd, in the absence of Donna Taylor.  Marvin Keener moved to accept the minutes as read.  Chuck Bauer seconded the motion and the motion carried.

Treasurer’s report was given by Larry Pendergrass.  Bitsy Gryder moved to accept the report as read.  Marvin Keener seconded the motion and the motion carried.

The PAC report was given by Jim Murphy.  The pre-election report has been filed.  Joe Gryder moved to accept the report as read.  Bitsy Gryder seconded the motion and the motion carried.

ANNOUNCMENTS – Election day, encourage people to vote.  The RCRP bought 240 radio announcements, five newspaper ads, and put signs out for our candidates.  Linda Pendergrass recorded the radio announcements.  Early voting showed that 5,006 votes had been cast, as compared with 2,140 in the 2014 midterm election.

The Legislative Report was given by Kris Bancroft.  Kris, Glen Varner, and Gary Drinkard drafted a letter to Mr. Jesse Messimer, Principal of Rhea County High School, asking for his assistance in allowing us to sponsor a Republican Club.  Mr. Messimer offered no response.

OLD BUSINESS – The Nominating Committee will present a slate of officers by our next meeting.

NEW BUSINESS – The Herald News will sponsor “A Salute to Our Vets” on November 7th, the 100th anniversary of Veteran’s Day.  Joe Gryder moved to donate $100 to help with the event.  The motion was seconded by Larry Pendergrass and the motion carried.

The RCRP membership received an invitation from State Senator Ken Yager to his 25th annual chili dinner to be held on November 16th, from 4:30 – 7:30, at Roane State Community College.  Joe Gryder motioned to donate $100 to Senator Yager.  The motion was seconded by Larry Pendergrass and the motion carried.

Missy Blevins sent cupcakes to the November meeting as thanks for the RCRP’s support of her candidacy.

OPEN DISCUSSION – Preparations for the Reagan Day Dinner are going “OK.”

JOKE OF THE MONTH – Chairman Flatness told his Joke of the Month and the meeting was adjourned.

Recorded by Debbie Byrd for

Secretary Donna Taylor


According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the taxpayers of Tennessee shelled out $574 Million to subsidize illegal aliens.  Visit their website at to see how much the taxpayers in your state were penalized because our government continues to FAIL to serve its citizens and uphold our laws.


This month’s book is an excellent choice for those who may wish to write white papers, essays, position papers, or letters to their representatives.  It aids the writer on how to effectively persuade their audience to agree to their particular point of view.  The book is entitled Writing Arguments, by Dr. John D. Ramage, John C. Bean, and June Johnson (7th edition, R.R. Donnelly and sons).


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly.  Specialization is for insects. – Robert Heinlein 


Bruce Griffey, State Representative for the 75th District, reports he has called for a resolution to end birthright citizenship to children of illegal aliens born in Tennessee.

Dr. Scott DesJarlais, (TN-04), offered the following statement on the one year anniversary of President Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel:  “On the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a momentous event, I am proud to co-sponsor this resolution affirming our support for the United States’ strongest Middle East ally, a Jewish homeland, and the Israeli people. Although Congress authorized moving the U.S. embassy more than two decades ago, only our current President, fulfilling a promise other presidents have made but broken, had the courage to act. Anti-Semitism and terrorist threats must never deter us from standing up for our principles, including a free and independent Israel with Jerusalem as its capital. In fact, standing up for our principles and supporting our allies is essential to creating peace and stability in the region.”  [Certainly, notes of thanks to President Trump, and to our Representatives is in order.  Won’t you send a note or make a call today? – Editor]

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), offered the following comment:  “I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020.”  He added:

“The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as Governor and Senator than anyone else from our state.”


Government has three primary functions.  It should provide for the defense of the nation.  It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property.  When government – in pursuit of good intentions – tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom.  Government should be a referee, not an active player.  – Milton Friedman


This section is provided for our readers to make announcements about activities in their area or offer commentary on current events; they do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.  All comments are welcomed for so long as their substance can be verified via independent sources.  Please e-mail your announcements, comments, and opinions to  – Editor.

Edward Diebold, a reader from Windsor, CT, provided the following:  “Back in April, William Young, a federal district court judge – a Reagan appointee! – rendered a decision upholding the Massachusetts ban on large capacity magazines.  I called Senators Blumenthal and Murphy to protest the decision but was scoffed at by their staff members.  Every day there’s a new attack on our constitutional rights but I will keep making my voice heard and hope everyone else will too.

Pam Whitson, a reader who lists her location as “Stuck on the outbound Kennedy expressway in Chicago, IL,” shared the following:  At a press conference today, Governor elect J. B. Pritzker, Speaker of the Illinois House Michael “Boss” Madigan, and Speaker of the Illinois Senate John Cullerton announced their intention to propose emergency legislation to enact a “Departing Taxpayer Fee” on those who move their primary residence from the state.  The proposed fee is 50% of gross taxable income or 1% of the value of all property owned, whichever is higher, on households with incomes greater than $100K/year.  “It’s only fair” said Pritzker, “since these individuals enjoyed state services during the period when overwhelming deficits and pension obligations were incurred without proper taxation.”  Madigan added “the State requires revenue enhancement, and individuals will not be permitted to avoid paying their fair share by changing their state of residence.”  [I guess I won’t be moving to Illinois. – Editor]

Brian Troyer, a reader from Apple Creek, OH, shared the following Critical Life Lesson:
“Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

     There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.
     The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime. In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”
The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said that it was no joke. “You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free food”.
     “When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence”. “They get used to that and start to eat again.
     You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side”. “The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd”.
     “Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”
     The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare entitlements, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time as the government forces us to participate in many of these programs whether or not we want to.
     One should always remember two truths: There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself. If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to share this with your friends.
God help us all when the gate slams shut!

     Brian’s quote for today: “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered by those that vote for a living.”

Gary Loe, a reader in Knoxville, TN offers the following:  Tennesseans would benefit by conservatives working to pass the “Tax Relief Act of 2018” [which likely will be renamed], aka House Bill 1457 sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), and Senate Bill 2649 Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson).  Public Funds and Financing – As introduced, establishes the Tennessee taxpayer relief and recession reserve; clarifies that deposits into the reserve for revenue fluctuation and the relief and recession reserve do not count toward the Copeland Cap; provides an automatic, temporary sales tax reduction when there are sufficient over collections to offset the loss of revenue. – Amends TCA Title 9 and Title 67. FURTHERMORE: It is a “Tennessee taxpayer relief and economic recession reserve” created as a reserve account in the general fund…and on or before November 1, 2019…the commissioner of finance and administration shall determine the amount of over collections, if any, during the prior fiscal year…[the term “over collections” means state revenue collected above the budgeted accrual estimate that would otherwise be allocated to the general fund]…and on or before November 15, 2019, over collections shall be allocated as follows: (1) If the balance of the reserve for revenue fluctuations is less than eight percent (8%) of the state tax revenues allocated to the general fund and the education trust fund for the prior fiscal year: (A) Either twenty-five percent (25%) of the over collections or the amount needed to bring the balance of the reserve for revenue fluctuations to eight percent (8%) of the state revenues allocated to the general fund and the education trust fund for the prior fiscal year, whichever amount is less, shall be allocated to the reserve for revenue fluctuation, and (B) The remainder of the over collections shall be allocated to the relief and recession reserve…MORE INFO:…

Troy McFarland, a reader from McDonald, TN shared some alarming statistics on the correlation between vaccines and autism rates:

            In 1983 children were given 10 vaccines

            In 2013 the number rose to 32 vaccines

            In 2018 children receive up to 74 vaccines

            Autism rates among children in 1983 = 1/10,000

            Autism rates among children in 2013 = 1/88

            Autism rates among children in 2018 = 1/36 (1/28 for boys)

Diane Bederman, a reader from Toronto, Canada offers the following news:  Canada has declared DIVERSITY as the most important Canadian value. And diversity is the sister of multiculturalism. Canada is not the only country promoting this idea. Canada has a Human Rights Tribunal to protect that diversity. If you believe your human rights have been attacked, you more or less go to court and request compensation.

     How does a court decide whose rights are more important when two diverse groups are at the table?

     Think about that. The Human Rights Tribunal in Canada, and in each province, has to develop a hierarchy of rights; in a country that at its very core states all people are equal.

     So I ask, how does a country whose core value is the equality of all justify the development of a hierarchy of rights? Which group’s rights (because it does come down to identity politics) are more right than another group?

     Diversity will be the death of the social contract, and the demise of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, and now take for granted, as groups of people declare their views as special, overruling the rights of others, without a thought to one’s personal responsibilities, responsibilities to others and mutual preservation. We are so busy being inclusive through diversity (another Alice in Wonderland oxymoron) that we are losing our connection to the ethic and tearing apart the social contract that binds us together.


There will come a day where you will cry out for the enforcement of the law.  There will come a day where you will long for the law to be the foundation of this Republic.  So, you be careful what you do with the law today because, if you weaken it today you weaken it forever. – Trey Gowdy


The purpose of the legislative report is to inform the reader about legislation that is currently under consideration that may have significant impact on our lives so the reader may analyze each bill’s content and become cognizant of what our representatives are proposing and (hopefully) become engaged in the process of offering their opinions – in support of or against – such legislation.  They won’t know what you think unless you tell them! – Editor

In Tennessee

HB 1457 Tax Relief Act of 2018 (which will likely be renamed), has been introduced by Rep. Mike Carter, R-District 29.  Senator Bo Watson will introduce a companion bill.  The text of Rep Carter’s bill and the number of Sen. Watson’s bill are unknown at this time.

HB 2315 A bill to cut funding to cities, counties, and municipalities that have been identified as having a “Sanctuary Policy,”  sponsored by State Rep. Jay Dean Reedy, of Montgomery County, becomes law on January 1st, 2019.

[To track bills in the State of Tennessee, you may wish to visit the following website.…


In Washington DC

HR 2846 Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2017 (Farenthold, R-TX, 10 pages).  This bill would require the collection of voluntary feedback on services provided by agencies.  Section 6(d) requires the agencies to publish the results of their surveys which are then scrutinized by the OIG to find ways of improving services.

HR 6753 Strengthening the Health Care Fraud Prevention Task Force Act of 2018 (Walden, OR-R, 12 pages).  A bill to amend Title IX of the Social Security Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a public-private partnership for purposes of identifying waste, fraud, and abuse.    

HR 1567 United States – Mexico Economic Partnership Act (Cuellar, D-TX, 7 pages), a bill to promote economic partnership and cooperation between the United States and Mexico, was passed on 28 November and forwarded to the Senate for consideration.  This bill makes several important adjustments to its predecessor, NAFTA, and benefits all trading partners involved.  However, if the bill amended in the Senate, it will then have to be sent back to the House of Representatives for their consideration of the changes made in the upper chamber.  With a Democrat majority taking over in the House in January 2019, this could essentially kill the bill or postpone its passage for two years.

S 2276 Good Accounting in Government Obligation Act (Young, R-IN, 8 pages), has passed the Senate and has been forwarded to the House of Representatives for consideration.  This bill requires each federal agency, in its annual budget justification, to include a report on: (1) each public recommendation of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that is classified as “open” or “closed, unimplemented”; (2) each public recommendation for corrective action from the agency’s office of the inspector general (OIG) for which no final action has been taken; and (3) the implementation status of each such recommendation.  Each agency shall also provide a copy of this information to its OIG and to the GAO.

HR 7213 Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 (Donovan, R-NY, 22 pages), amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, and for other purposes.  This bill was added to the schedule for the week beginning December 10th, and was immediately forwarded to the House for consideration.  The bill passed on a voice vote and has been forwarded to the Senate for consideration.

HR 2 Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, (Conway, R-TX, 1242 pages), amends and extends major programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other miscellaneous programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for five years through 2023. The bill is budget neutral and $112 billion below baseline funding.  The bill provides funding for using tax dollars to purchase any surplus farm products and making them available to low-income individuals and families; this mechanism keeps farmers solvent if they should produce non-marketable items.  NOTE:  I could find no language in the bill that addressed the “Work for Welfare” issue that the House had promised to include in this bill. – Editor]

HR 7093 Clean up the Code Act, (Chabot, R-OH, 3 pages), repeals absurd and out-of-date laws.  Did you know you are violating a Federal law if you transport a water hyacinth across state lines?  Transporting dentures across state lines is also an infraction of Federal law, along with the unauthorized use of the Smoky Bear character name.


If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good?  Do not the legislators and their appointed agents belong to the human race?  Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?

– Frederic Bastiat


In a recent conversation I was questioned about my beliefs and asked to describe my political philosophy.  I replied I am a true conservative. 

“Just what is a true conservative?” was the follow-up question. 

I gave the question some thought and replied:  Well, it’s all a matter of perspective.

From a political perspective the true conservative is that individual who is willing to commit their services and resources, as necessary, to preserve our Constitutional Republic, with the understanding that our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and our other founding documents are the vessels in which our freedoms and liberties are held and preserved.  In understanding these documents, the true conservative also understands that the individual is the master of their government and not the other way around, and that the best form of government is that which exacts the least control over our lives. 

From a moral perspective the true conservative is that individual who realizes our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values and strives to uphold the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens, without reservation, and irrespective of race, color, or creed. 

From an ethical perspective the true conservative is that individual who is honest in their interactions with others and seeks always to be self-sufficient, attaining their self-sufficiency through learning, planning, prudence, efficiency, and work.  

From a patriotic perspective the true conservative is that individual who places our country above all others for they realize that the United States of America is a fountain of liberty, it is the greatest country to ever exist on planet Earth, and it is the best hope for all humankind. 

The true conservative humbly accepts their God-given dominion over our earth’s life forms and natural resources, and in doing so assumes the enormous responsibilities emanating therefrom in the way of practicing good stewardship, and serves to promote by example good stewardship to their neighbors. 

The true conservative is that individual who is fiscally responsible and, although they may never attain great wealth from their honest labors, they are careful to manage such wealth as they may have through prudent usage and thrift.

From a cultural perspective the true conservative realizes and upholds our unique American Culture as that one culture that enables all citizens to achieve any honorable goal they may, for so long as they are willing to obey our just laws and put forth the effort to attain. 

From social perspective the true conservative is that individual who offers compassion and patience toward others and, to the extent possible, is generous with their time and resources toward helping those seeking to improve their own station in life.

The true conservative is politically active at all levels of government and seeks to understand the activities of their elected representatives and then analyzing the impact of those activities.  When the true conservative recognizes that their government’s activities are detrimental to the people, the true conservative renders their opinion to the appropriate representative and encourages others to do the same.

When it’s all said and done, the true conservative is that individual who embodies our nation’s honorable values and eagerly rises to defend our wonderful country against any and all threats, foreign and domestic, with honor and dedication, and in that manner in which so many of those who came before us have done.  The true conservative supports those elected representatives who share all these values and works to defeat those who do not.

And that, my friend, is my definition of a true conservative.


The first reader to send an email to will receive a $25 gift card.


At a recent meeting of the Rhea County Republican Party, the subject of open- versus close primaries was discussed.  During the following month, contact was made with our Commissioner of Elections in Rhea County, to invite him to come and explain the pros and cons of each alternative.  Unfortunately, the Commissioner declined stating his concerns that doing so might perceived as an affinity toward a particular political party.

The unfortunate response we received from the Commissioner presented a necessity to seek out the information of interest.  While the following provides details about a particular effort in Tennessee to advocate for passage of closed primary legislation, it also provides general information of interest to our readers in other states and (possibly) other countries.

In the following paragraphs, the reader is provided unbiased data on open- versus closed primaries but an opinion must ultimately be derived therefrom.  Upon completing your examination, I hope you will make your preferences known to your elected representatives.  Voicing your opinions to those whom you have selected to represent you is the way change is wrought in our Constitutional Republic.

Thanks to Terri Richman Nicholson for her assistance in gathering this information.


UPDATE!  On 1 December 2018, it was reported that a vote had been taken among Tennessee’s Republican Party SEC on whether to recommend to our state legislators to close Republican primaries or keep them open.  The Republican SEC voted to close our primaries by a margin of 45 to 14 (there were 4 empty seats, to absent members, and one abstention.  In a communication from Paul Chapman, he explains to us: “The SEC doesn’t make election law; that is the responsibility of the state legislature.  We passed a resolution asking the legislature to pass this.  It’s in their hands now.” 

Questions and Answers about Closing Tennessee’s Primary Elections

What’s the difference between a primary election and a general election?

Primaries are essentially private events in which the members of the major political parties select who they want to represent them on the upcoming general election ballot.

The general election is the public election in which everyone participates, whether they are members of the parties or not.   The general election ballot will list the winners of the primaries and any other candidates who did not run in the primaries (independents).

During the primaries, political parties are exercising their fourth amendment rights of free association.  The parties should be allowed to determine who is or is not a member of each party and who can participate in nominating their candidates for the general election without interference from non-party members.

The state (all taxpayers) pays for the primaries.  Does that not make them public events?

No.  Tennessee law is clear that primaries are private events intended only for the members of the major political parties.   It is reasonable to ask whether all taxpayers in the state should pay for a private event which benefits only a subset of the electorate.  That entire discussion, however, is outside the scope of this effort.  Eventually, it may be best for the state and the major political parties to move away from primaries to conventions (defined and discussed later) for state-level races.

What’s the difference between open primaries and closed primaries?

In an open primary system, any voter can choose to vote in the primary of any party, whether they are affiliated with that party or not.   Democrats, Republicans, third party voters and independent voters can vote in the primary of any party.   This means that the parties are not selecting their own candidate – people outside the parties are selecting them!   Open primaries allow “mischief voting” in which voters who have allegiances to one party participate in a primary of another party.  These mischief voters seek to affect who is elected for another party to the benefit of their true party in the general election.

In a closed primary system, only Republican voters can vote in the Republican Primary election and only Democrat voters can vote in the Democratic Primary election.   States do it differently, but usually this means that voters must register their party affiliation in advance when they register to vote.

Technically, Tennessee is a partially open and partially closed primary state.  Voters are supposed to, by law, vote in the primary of the party to which they have already have allegiance or intend to give their allegiance.   The law says a person should be a “bona fide” member of a party to participate in that party’s primary.   However, Tennessee’s primaries are effectively open because:

a) Tennessee voters do not register their party affiliation in advance (thus there is no way for poll workers to verify the party of a voter at the polls),

b) the law is vague in that it does not define “bona fide” and

c) the process of challenging voters as to their “bona fides” at the polls is complicated and labor-intensive — and thus impractical to implement.

In Tennessee, primaries are affected by mischief voters who are scamming the system.  It is dishonest – and illegal.   But because the law is vague and has no practical enforcement mechanism, there are typically no consequences to these scammers.   District Attorney’s hesitate to prosecute voting crimes.  In fact, some groups have openly advocated mischief voting – even to the point of openly distributing mailers telling voters they should break the law.

What defines a “bona fide” member of a political party?

Tennessee election law states that only “bona fide” members of a party can participate in that party’s primary.    There is no definition of “bona fide” in the law.   To make matters worse, the only way to stop someone from voting in the primary of another party, where they are not a “bona fide” member, is to use a complicated, labor intensive, and infrequently used “challenge” process at the polling location.   Under the current law the parties rarely challenge the “bona fides” of voters.   The effect is that anyone can get away with voting in the primary of any party without consequence – even though it is technically illegal.

In Tennessee, do Democrats actually vote in Republican primaries and vice versa?

Yes, there is ample proof that members of both parties engage in mischief voting in various districts and races.  

The amount of mischief voting varies depending on the circumstances of the primary election.   For instance, when one party has only one candidate running in their primary, members of that party are encouraged to vote in the other party’s primary in order to nominate the candidate who is weaker or who aligns with their actual party more closely.  They know that their party’s nominee will have a better chance to defeat the weaker opponent that they helped nominate, or if their party’s nominee loses, they will have helped elect the candidate who more closely aligns with their actual party.

Tennessee has become a solidly Republican State.   There are fewer and fewer competitive Democrat primaries (competitive means that there are two or more candidates running in a primary) and more and more competitive Republican primaries.   Because of this, the number of times that it makes sense for Democrats to engage in mischief voting in Republican primaries is much greater than the number of times it makes sense for Republicans to engage in mischief voting in Democrat primaries.   This means that Tennessee’s effectively open primary system works against Republicans in more cases than against Democrats.

How much mischief voting occurs in Tennessee’s primaries?  Is it enough to affect the results?

Because Tennessee voters do not currently register their party affiliation, it is nearly impossible to precisely quantify mischief voting from voting records.

However, it is possible to estimate the level of mischief voting by examining voters who switch back and forth across primary elections. 

In what may be the first study of its kind, an analysis was performed of statewide voting records over the last 10 years (2008 to 2018).   The study was only for state-level elections (Governor, U.S. Senator, U.S. House, TN Senate and TN House).   This study included 3 Presidential primaries and 6 August Primaries, for a total of nine state and federal primaries. The study did not analyze county level elections (a very difficult task).   The study found the following facts:

Total Registered Voters:  4,071,710 (100.0%)

Registered Voters who never voted:  889, 277 (21.8%)

Voters who voted only in general elections:  1,004,888 (24.7%)

Voters who voted non-partisan* in Primaries:  30,988 (0.8%)

Voters who voted only in Republican Primaries:  1,183,427 (29.1%)

Voters who voted only in Democrat Primaries:  657,915 (16.2%)

Voters who voted in both R and D Primaries:  305,215 (7.5%)

* Non-partisan means they voted in a primary but did not select a Republican nor Democrat primary ballot.  This means they voted on some other matter besides nominating Republican or Democrat candidates.

The sad state of affairs is that 21.8% of registered voters have never participated in state or federal elections after they register to vote.  Further, another 24.7% of registered voters did not participate in primaries.

The key finding regarding closed primaries, though, is found when we look at the percentages for just primary voters:

Voters who participated in at least one R or one D Primary:  2,146,557 (100%

Voters who voted only in Republican Primaries (Republicans):  1,183,427 (55.1%)

Voters who voted only in Democrat Primaries (Democrats):  657,915 (30.6%)

Voters who voted in both R and D Primaries (Mixed voters):  305,215 (14.2%)

The key finding is the last line above:  14.2% of the voters have participated in at least one Republican Primary AND at least one Democrat primary.  This 14.2% of “mixed” voters is more than enough to swing many primary elections.

The issue becomes more severe when you drill down to county level percentages.   The percentage of mixed voters varies from a low of 7.6% (Fayette County) up to 31.9% (Perry County).  

A mixed voter could be independents voting in both Republican and Democrat primaries.  Some of the mixed voters could be voters who have truly switched parties during the study period.   Some of the mixed voters are those who are engaging in purposeful mischief voting — purposefully voting in the primary of the party to which they do not have allegiance in order to affect who is selected as that other party’s nominee.   Without polling these voters, it is impossible to estimate the percentage of each type of mixed voters.  

Regardless, it is clear that a significant number of voters without allegiance to a specific party are participating in that party’s primary elections.  This is both unethical and illegal.

Further, if county primaries were studied, based on anecdotal evidence, the percentages of mixed voting would be much higher.  The levels of mischief voting will vary by county and will likely be higher in solid Republican districts and solid Democrat districts.   Such a study would be costly and difficult (because county level data is not consistent across counties and is not collected by the state — making it necessary to collect county level data from all 95 counties individually).

What is being proposed to “close” the primaries?  What are the details?

A bill is currently being drafted.   The proposed outline of the bill is as follows:

Voters who wish to participate in the primaries must specify their party affiliation when they register to vote.

Exception:  For voters currently registered when the law takes effect, they will be able to register their party affiliation at the first statewide primary in which they vote after the law takes effect, without having to do so in advance.  After that first statewide primary, registered voters who wish to be affiliated with a party and thus vote in that party’s primary must register (or re-register) using current registration processes (e.g., county election offices, DMV, and online).

Voters may only vote in the primary of the party to which they are registered on the registration deadline date.

County election officials must certify that a candidate in a primary election is registered to that party at the time they “pull their papers” to qualify to run.  The proposal is that this registration be in addition to existing candidate qualification processes of the parties.  Parties will still be able to use other criteria, such as examining the candidate’s primary voting history and other criteria, to determine if the candidates are “bona fide” members of their party according to the party by-laws.

Voters may only vote in the primary of the party to which they are registered on the registration deadline date.

Election officials must maintain the history of the changes to a voter’s party affiliation.

In the future, it is possible that the parties may be asked to confirm the party membership of voters prior to the elections.  There are many logistical questions to be answered before considering such a step.  Further, implementing that much change all at once could be too confusing and complicated for the parties and for voters.   Thus, for now, it is proposed that voters self-declare their party allegiance without requiring approval of the party to which they are identifying.

Here are some further questions and answers about the process:

What happens if a voter decides not to register with either party?

Voters who decide not to register with either party (“non-affiliated voters”) will not be able to vote in the primaries.   Technically, they should not be voting in the primaries under current law.  They will, of course, be able to vote in all general elections.

Will a voter be able to change their party registration after they make their initial choice?

Yes. They can change their party registration with their county election commission.  However, the party affiliation on their registration record on the date that registration ends for a primary election will determine the primary in which they can vote.  Voters must make any change on or before the registration deadline of the next primary election.

Is there a limit to how many times a voter can change their party registration?

No.  Voters may change their party registration as many times as they wish.   It is very likely the vast majority of voters will select a party and stay with that party for many primary election cycles.

Will this change really stop mischief voting?  Won’t those mischief voters just change their registration multiple times before and after primaries and thus still engage in mischief voting?

No process is 100% fool-proof.  Technically, a person who is intent on mischief voting and who takes the time to re-register in advance of the primaries will still be able to switch back and forth from election to election.  It is believed that a very small percentage of highly partisan voters (e.g., party leaders and campaign workers) will be aware of the opportunity for mischief voting and will take the time and energy to strategically re-register before each primary registration deadline.  It is likely that, under the current system, the vast majority of mischief voters are not planning their voting strategy until just before the primary election.  Instead, they are deciding to engage in mischief voting just prior to actually going to the polls.  The advance registration requirement will eliminate last minute mischief voters.

Will requiring party registration “suppress the vote” or “disenfranchise” voters?

No.  There are two parts to this answer.

a. A person’s right to vote applies only to general elections.  Participation in a primary is a privilege of membership in the party under that party’s fourth amendment rights of free association.

Do you think it would be right if the members of the Kiwanis Club were allowed to vote for the President of the Lion’s Club or vice versa?  Or why would people who are not members of either club have a vote in who becomes the President of either club?

The same is true for the primaries.   They are for members of the parties only.  Under current Tennessee law, a person who is not a “bona fide” member of a party does not have the “right” to participate in the private primary election of that political party.  

No one is being disenfranchised by asking them to register their party affiliation and vote only in the primary of that party.   In fact, a person who has participated in a party’s primary and who does not have some allegiance to that party has acted dishonestly, has disrespected the fourth amendment rights of that party and has technically broken Tennessee law (they were not a “bona fide” member of that party).  

Everyone gets a vote in the GENERAL ELECTION as to who will actually be elected to the office.  No one is restricting that right, which is guaranteed under the U.S.


b. Open or closed primaries do not affect voter turnout.

Whether primaries are open or closed does not affect voter turnout. The five states with the highest voter turnout include both open and closed primary states. The five states with the lowest voter turnout include both open and closed primary states.

Highest turnout states – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, and
Maine (closed)

Lowest turnout states – Hawaii, West Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico (closed), and Texas.

What are conventions and caucuses?   Where do they fit in?

Generally, conventions and caucuses are meetings at which members of a political party select their candidates who will appear on the general election ballot.  The methods used to select candidates can vary widely from state to state.

In Tennessee, Rule G of the Tennessee Republican Party’s By-laws gives the Executive Committee of each county the authority to decide whether or not Republican candidates for local or county offices should be nominated and, if so, whether by party primary or convention.  In counties of less than 100,000 people, the convention is attended by individual members of the party who must meet certain criteria.  In counties of more than 100,000 people, caucuses are held across the county to select delegates from each part of the county to attend the convention.  The delegates and the party members who select them must also meet certain criteria.  The delegates attend the convention (rather than individual members) to nominate the candidates.

The county parties must cover the cost of conventions and caucuses.  Thus, the county parties must be well-funded to conduct conventions and caucuses.  Conventions also require the county party to be well-organized and well-staffed with leaders and volunteers — particularly in larger counties where caucuses must also be organized in advance of the convention.

When a county chooses to select county and local candidates by convention, voters in that county still participate in the statewide primary elections for State Representative, State Senator, Governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate.  The difference for these counties is that the county level seats will not appear on the primary ballot.  Thus the issue of “mischief voting” still exists for the statewide primary elections in counties which utilize conventions for their county offices.

A few county Republican parties successfully conducted county conventions in the 2018 election cycle, but historically conventions have been rarely used.

One long-term solution for closing the primaries is to conduct state-wide conventions.  To make this happen, the following must be true: 

1) Party structures would have to be established in every county

2) The county party leaders and volunteers need to be well organized and

3) The county parties need to be well funded.

These conditions do not exist for either of the major political parties at this time.   Even the Republican Party is not organized in all 95 counties.  Thus primaries, and the issue of “mischief voting” for state-level races, will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether conventions are used in county party elections.


President Donald Trump The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington D.C. 20500 Phone:  (202) 456-1414 Fax:  (202) 456-2461 e-mail   U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander 455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 40 – Suite 2 Washington D.C. 20510 Phone:  (202) 244-4944 Fax:  (202) 228-3398 e-mail  
U.S. Senator Bob Corker Dirksen Senate Office Building SD-185 Washington, DC 20510 Phone:  (202) 224-3344 Fax:  (202) 228-0566 e-mail   U.S Representative Dr. Scott DesJarlais 2301 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515 Phone:  (202) 225-6831 Fax:  (202) 226-5172 e-mail  
Governor Bill Haslam Tennessee State Capitol Nashville, Tennessee 37243 Phone:  (615) 741-2001 Fax:  (615) 532-9711 e-mail   Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House Link above provides all methods of contact.   Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader  
State Representative Ron Travis 301 Sixth Avenue North Suite G-3 War Memorial Building Nashville, Tennessee 37243 Phone:  (615) 741-1450   State Senator Ken Yager 301 Sixth Avenue North Suite G-19 War Memorial Building Nashville, Tennessee 37243 Phone:  (615) 741-1449 Fax:  (615) 253-0237