Mississippi Woman Seeks to Change Primary System

By: Mike McDaniel
By: Mike McDaniel

A Lincoln County woman fed up with the state's current closed primary election system wants to change how Mississippians vote.

Marla Nottingham is starting out small, but is hoping her effort pays off for others looking for the same change.

"It's just wrong. It's just wrong on so many levels," said Nottingham.

To Nottingham, each signature on her grassroots petition is a step in the right direction.

"I've had nothing but excellent reaction," she said. "So many people that I've talked to are just frustrated."

Nottingham is hoping to change Mississippi's closed primary election system, which requires voters to choose a political party before they cast a ballot, and then only vote for candidates within that party.

"The fact that I'm an independent and I was made to choose a party at this election last week really bothered me," said Nottingham. "I believe that I should vote for the man or woman; that's voting for office on their merits, not on their party affiliation."

In the few days she has been circulating her petition, more than 500 people already agree with her, ad the list is growing with folks like Patsy Moak, who wasted no time in adding her name to the list.

"I think it's a great idea to be like Louisiana," Moak said. "Flip flop and you can vote for any party."

So far Nottingham is a one-woman show, hoping her petition will spread across the state and accomplish something once in the spotlight before.

State lawmakers have taken up open primary legislation in the past but it never made it into law. Through this petition, the hope is to circumvent the legislative process altogether.

The U.S. Justice Department struck down the legislature's attempts, so by creating a voter initiative, Nottingham hopes the decision will be left in the hands of voters.

"People have to have the right to choose," said Nottingham.
"They have to have the freedom to vote the way they want to and not be told you have to choose one or the other."

From feeds stores to small town restaurants, it's a petition process Nottingham says she'll continue to fight for, one signature at a time.

Nottingham does plan to eventually turn the petition over to the secretary of state's office, once she gets enough signatures, which of course, will all have to be verified.

Nottingham says she does not have the resources to travel the state, but those interested in joining her effort may reach her at 601-734-6763.

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  • by Jay Location: Roxie, MS on Aug 26, 2011 at 06:17 AM
    I have read and understand the pros and cons on both sides of the open primary issue. However, as an Independant with libertarian views, it distressed me that I was unable to vote for several of the contended positions in my county. Only Democrats were running for one position; only Republicans were running for a couple others. I had to choose D or R to vote at all. Shouldn't I be allowed to choose which of two democrats I would prefer to represent me (if I chose R)? There has to be a better way to do this.
  • by Anonymous on Aug 16, 2011 at 02:22 PM
    Crossing party lines is what the General Election is for. The Primaries are for putting the Party candidates out to eliminate them for the General Election. They are specifically for the PARTY. This is to protect the party & to keep misuse & abuse out of politics. You don't have to vote a party. You don't have to vote in the primary. You do have a choice in the General Election. VOTE THEN!
  • by Lee Location: Lauderdale on Aug 13, 2011 at 01:05 PM
    She's on target. There were people who didn't get to vote on the superintendent of education because there were only republicans running. The democrats should get to vote on that. Our soldiers are fighting for our freedom to vote. I am a veteran and people have a choice and we want to talk about dirty politics. It's all dirty. I love miss. But the politicians have no morals or values. Few do.
  • by cw on Aug 13, 2011 at 07:32 AM
    there were so many candidates that i did not like on my ballot that i took longer than normal to vote because of all the write ins i made up
  • by Anonymous on Aug 12, 2011 at 01:47 PM
    The only thing is if change it we will Chicago politics here . People wil vote for somone that not in the party they support so their party will do better in the general election . I would have need it in the governor race .
  • by James Location: Philadelphia on Aug 12, 2011 at 01:30 PM
    If there is no party then you can help both sides, because i could not vote open but had to vote either or. i had to choose one and the other person i wanted to vote for in other party but could not lost. the best person in both party prin. election should have won,but becaise of closed prim. we had to shose which one to vote for. my family has a total of 246 votes than were under served.
  • by Keith Location: Meridian on Aug 12, 2011 at 01:06 PM
    Just a thought, but what some have called "party jumping" might be viewed by an independent voter as democracy.
  • by Everette Location: Union on Aug 12, 2011 at 09:58 AM
    I Am for Open primarys.Our Current System Forces You To Vote Democratic or Republican And this Is So Unfair.There Are Local Canidates That Gets No Votes If You Vote Republican And That Is Not fair To Them So Lets Repeal The Closed Primarys.
  • by lcrez Location: lc on Aug 12, 2011 at 09:56 AM
    Sounds like a great idea.
  • by marie Location: meridian on Aug 12, 2011 at 07:15 AM
    I absolutely agree with the idea of an open election. last week i was basically forced to choose whom i could vote for. there were some individuals from both parties that i felt were good candidates, but because of their party affiliation i was not able to cast a fair ballot.
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