Even though certain readers have accused me of siding with one or another political party in the past, I am strictly an independent voter.

I have never pronounced myself Republican or Democrat.

Both states in which I have lived during my adult life, Arkansas and Tennessee, have not required voter registration by party.

That could change in Tennessee if certain lawmakers have their way. According to a recent story in The Tennessean, a bill is making its way through the state House and Senate that would require voters to declare party affiliation in order to vote in a primary election. It has been approved by the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee.

As I understand it, if this were to be signed into law, Tennessee would have “closed primaries,” meaning voters would have to be registered as Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated or other in order to vote in a primary. And if you are unaffiliated, according the story, you will not be able to vote in a primary.

I’m not sure about “other.” I guess if an “other” party decided to have a primary election, you could vote in it if that’s what you had declared as your preference.

Apparently nine states have closed primaries today, and seven have partially closed primaries in which the state can decide whether it will allow unaffiliated voters to cast a primary ballot.

Our current and immediate past governor are on record as opposing the idea, as are some lawmakers from both parties. At least one legislator says it would “disenfranchise” (a favorite buzzword of modern day politicians) independent voters.

Those who support it “suspect there have been Democrats voting in Republican primaries and vice versa in order to influence the election.”

Well, yes, there is that, but what is voting for, if not to influence an election? That is certainly why I vote.

I’m being a bit facetious, of course, but part of why I have remained independent is so I have the option of voting in whichever primary I choose. I realize, in Williamson County, Democratic primaries often have few or no contested races, so I have probably voted in more Republican primaries in the past. But I like having a choice.

I would guess in our county there would be more Democrats doing the crossing over in primaries – voting for a Republican that they believe would have less of a chance of defeating the Democratic candidate. In Davidson County, it might be the other way around.

Is that underhanded?

Perhaps, but for now it’s legal. Although I understand the logic behind it, there is something that rubs me the wrong way about having to register by party.

You can bet, if this bill becomes law, I’ll be in the unaffiliated camp, even if that restricts my primary voting. I’m too old and stubborn to choose sides now.

And while we are on politics . . .

Brentwood residents might see a more spirited race than usual this spring as nine candidates, including two incumbents, vie for only four open seats on the Brentwood Board of Commissioners.

Although there might be the occasional disagreements over the traditional Brentwood issues like green space, the one-acre zoning rule and traffic flow, Brentwood races are generally civil affairs, and I’m happy to say candidates do not declare a party affiliation. It will be interesting to see if the crowded field of candidates leads to more down and dirty campaigning.

A recent summary of the contenders in the Home Page indicates the issues to be discussed will be similar to what I just listed, along with perhaps more emphasis on education. Interestingly, there was no mention of Brentwood forming its own school district, or senior housing, two topics that have been the subject of frequent conversation over the past year or so.

One candidate posed the question of why gas in Brentwood is more expensive than in surrounding areas. I have often wondered the same and would love to see this issue gain traction.

Voter turnout is not always the best for these elections, and if the new candidates are not already aware of the importance of each vote, they will learn it soon.

They would only have to go to outgoing commissioner Betsy Crossley to confirm that. In Crossley’s first race for her seat, she ended in a tie with Paul Ross, and was forced into a runoff.

So while we are not likely to see the mudslinging and accusations so familiar in recent state and national elections, this one could get interesting.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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