Mr. Brown also contends that Judge Lee’s order may be moot because of last month’s ruling by another federal judge in a lawsuit filed by state Democratic Party officials. They, like Mr. Brown, were upset by Republicans voting in the Democratic primary under Mississippi’s open primary law. “They come over and vote in the Democratic primary and it’s for the white candidates and then in the general election they run and vote for Republicans,” complained Ellis Turnage, the attorney for the Democratic Party. The Democrats asserted that state law guarantees them the “freedom not to associate” with interlopers in their primary.
District Judge Allen Pepper, a Clinton appointee recommended by Sen. Trent Lott, agreed, but he handed the Democrats a Pyrrhic victory by ordering the state to create closed primaries–but also to require photo ID at the polls. Democrats who have long used incendiary rhetoric to block approval of a photo ID law are howling.
The irony of their complaint wasn’t lost on Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. He noted that “Democrats, many of whom fought long and hard during the bad old days to open up Mississippi’s closed political system, are attempting to make their own case for ‘freedom not to associate.’ ” Secretary of State Eric Clark, a Democrat, said his party made a “serious mistake” in filing the lawsuit. “I believe in opening doors to voting and not in closing doors,” he said.