Letters to the Editor

Registering ‘Unaffiliated’ is a wise choice

To the Editor:

I am confused as to why anyone in a state like North Carolina, with semi-closed primaries, would affiliate with a party when registering. 

In the 2016 election cycle approximately 4.5 million North Carolinians voted in the General Election, while in the combined primaries only around 2.3 million of us participated. The math is straightforward: 2.2 million North Carolinians, many of them registered Democrats, didn’t find the 2016 primaries terribly consequential. Had those voters been capable of participating in the Republican primary, would they have?  

Currently, registered Democrats and Republicans can only vote in their party’s primary, while unaffiliated voters can vote in either primary in a given election cycle. If you’re an 11th District Democrat who has been disenfranchised through gerrymandering, choosing “Unaffiliated” will allow you to participate in the Republican primaries when you feel it necessary, allowing you to vote for centrists, or at the least, against extremists or the wholly unqualified. An informed, thoughtful electorate capable of expressing themselves more vociferously at the ballot box is the bane of either party at this point in history and might force them to be more thoughtful about the candidates they push. 

Affiliating with a party in North Carolina diminishes your voice by barring you from one party’s nomination process, which makes you entirely inconsequential in heavily gerrymandered districts. It also makes the work easy for those who created our gerrymandered districts in the first place by clearly documenting how you’re likely to vote and where exactly you live. Registering as “Unaffiliated” allows you to participate more widely and anonymously in the election process and have greater influence over who ultimately wins office. Should it not be worth your time to vote in the Democratic primary in a given cycle, perhaps it’s worth your time to vote in the Republican. And vice versa.  

Primary elections have consequences, and whoever is the next president, senator, U.S. or state representative or state auditor should serve us all, or at the least, not threaten half of us. Maintaining your party affiliation on paper both facilitates the delineation of gerrymandered districts and makes it more likely that thoughtless, plain dumb or overtly bigoted candidates will emerge from either side and win a General Election. Unaffiliating from either party puts pressure on both parties to do better. Feb. 9 is the last day you can switch your party registration to “Unaffiliated,” which might be necessary in order to meaningfully participate in the March 5 primary.

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Jarred Tanksley

Lake Junaluska

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