By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Elimination of the state laws governing the actions of Wyoming’s major political parties would be the best way to return control of the parties to their members, according to a Carbon County Republican Party official.
Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County GOP, recently recommended major changes in the way the state’s Republican and Democratic parties operate, including the elimination of primary elections for partisan offices, to give their members more control over the parties.
“There seems to be a misconception that a political party is a branch of government or anything other than a private entity,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
Correnti’s suggestion was included in a letter to Troy Bray, a precinct committeeman in the Park County Republican Party, that was sparked by an email Bray sent to a Republican state senator suggesting that she kill herself and containing obscene references. In Bray’s email, he identified himself as a precinct committeeman in Park County.
Correnti’s letter, which was also sent to Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne and Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmett, condemned Bray’s email and asked him to step down from his position, noting that Wyoming law does not contain a provision allowing elected officials to be removed from office for misbehavior
As a possible solution, Correnti suggested the elimination of Wyoming laws that govern how major parties can operate as a way to return the control of those parties to their members.
“I think it’s an absolute tragedy that the major political parties, as private non-governmental entities, don’t have the statutory authority to regulate themselves and their own membership internally …” he wrote.
Those laws spell out items including how party officials will be selected at the precinct, county and state level and how often conventions are to be held.
Correnti told Cowboy State Daily that eliminating those laws would allow members to have better control of their parties, including the ability to remove elected officials from office.
The major parties would then operate under the laws now governing only minor parties, such as the Green Party, which do not allow for a primary election.
Instead, candidates for a general election would be chosen at local and state gatherings, similar to closed caucuses held in other states, Correnti said.
“A primary election is not a pre-general election,” he said. “It’s a mechanism for a party to select its nominee.”
The change would give the party members at the local level a better chance to select a candidate for the general election who will reflect their beliefs, he said.
“Because the party cannot control its membership, there are nominees who end up on the general election ballot who can say ‘I am a Republican because I say I am’ and cater to voters from outside and then go and execute legislation,” he said.
Under Correnti’s plan, party members would attend precinct caucuses where policies and recommendations on candidates would be developed, then forwarded for consideration at county-level meetings, followed by discussions during the party’s state convention. Delegates to the state convention would be selected during the county meetings and those delegates would select candidates for general elections.
Primary elections would continue for non-partisan offices, Correnti added.
Such an arrangement would resolve issues such as voter crossover, when voters change parties to vote in the other party’s primary. Also resolved would be debates over whether the state should have a runoff system when no candidate in a primary wins more than half of the votes cast.
“We don’t have to have a primary runoff, it would be something we would take care of at the convention,” he said. “It would help address concerns over crossover voting because being in the party long enough to be a delegate at a convention would be a larger commitment than people want to make.”
The overall system brings the selection of representation closer to the voters at the grassroots level, he added.
“When something is picked at the precinct caucus, ratified at the county level and ratified again at the state convention, that necessarily includes a focus on the grassroots voices,” he said. “The opportunity, especially at that precinct level, is open to anyone who is on the voter rolls as Republican.”
Correnti said he is waiting to forward a formal suggestion to legislators until after they review some other legislation aimed at the primary election system, such as one proposing a runoff system when no candidate in a primary election receives more than half the votes cast.