Crossover voter threat in Michigan? Officials say they’re unconcerned

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

DEARBORN, Mich.-- As the state of Michigan prepares for Tuesday's presidential primary, questions remain about whether Democrats could skew the results via crossover voting. The state of Michigan has no party registration requirement, so any registered voter can participate in Tuesday's Republican presidential primary, including Democrats and independents.

But select party leaders surveyed by Yahoo News say they're not concerned about the potential impact of crossover votes.

"The Michigan Republican party believes that voters who vote in a primary do so because they're encouraged and inspired to participate in the process… not to create some type of mischief," state party spokesman Matt Frendewey told Yahoo News.

In the past, Democrats and independents have been credited with some major vote outcomes in Michigan: surveys from the 1996 reportedly indicated that 16 percent of voters in that year's Republican primary were Democrats and 17 percent were independents; many believe John McCain won Michigan's 2000 presidential primary with the help of Democrats and Independents; and others suggest Republican Gov. Rick Snyder won the 2010 primary with a boost from those same voting groups.

Frendewey said that the state GOP has been focused solely on Republican turnout for this primary and has made no efforts to appeal to independents or "soft Democrats."

For their part, Democrats say they have made no effort to encourage their fellow party members to vote on Tuesday.

United Auto Workers' President Bob King when asked last week at an anti-Mitt Romney rally in Detroit if he's encouraging auto union members (who typically vote Democratic) to participate Tuesday, he rejected the suggestion. "No, we're not," King told reporters. "I'm urging my members to work hard, to rebuild the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, to support President Obama, and really we want to build a broader movement…" he said.

The state Democratic party chairman also flatly denied any efforts to promote Democratic participation.

"We do not encourage crossover voting," chairman Mark Brewer told Yahoo News.

Brewer made that comment in a phone interview this weekend even though he put out a statement last week highlighting a video of two Republican state Senators encouraging Democrats to vote in the primary:

Democrats who accept this invitation will still be able to vote in our May 5th caucuses. If Democratic crossover votes affect the results on February 28th, Republicans will have no one but themselves to blame.

Statements such as this combined with the state's history have kept questions about crossover voters in the news. And other outlets have helped stoke interest in the subject.

Liberal Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas launched a call for Democratic voters to participate in open Republican primaries in Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont and Tennessee in an effort he dubbed "Operation Hilarity." (He made the same plea in Michigan in 2008.)

It's difficult to gauge exactly how many Democrats and Independents will head to the polls to vote Republican on Tuesday. Public Policy Polling-- which conducted robo-calls in Michigan-- on Sunday estimated that just 5 percent of likely primary voters in Michigan are Democrats and that their impact may not be felt at all. "They're splitting their votes 28-28 between Romney and Santorum," the survey outfit stated in its report.

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