Like Countable?

Install the App
TRY NOW

Party Hopping: Can Elected Officials Just Switch Sides?

by Countable | 8.7.17

At a Make America Great Again rally on Thursday night, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced that was leaving the Democratic party and joining the Grand Old Party.

Justice’s decision has made many people wonder if a governor, who was elected in November 2016 as a Democrat, can now just get up and switch party affiliation?

The short and long answer to both is "yes," and there is no law preventing an elected official from switching parties at any time. In fact, this is not even the first time that Justice as switched parties.

In February 2015, Justice switched affiliation from Republican to Democratic. On Thursday night, however, he switched back. Standing beside President Trump, Justice announced, "I tell you as West Virginians I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor. So tomorrow I will be changing my registration to Republican."

That, by the way, is all it takes: changing your voter registration. On Friday, Justice just had to log onto the West Virginia Secretary of State and check a different party. Then – poof – he’s a Republican.

Officially registering as a "Democrat," “Republican,” “Independent” or “Libertarian” is not a requirement to vote in a general election. Voters in a general election do not need to be registered with any political party.

However, if you want to vote in a state that has a "closed primary," you’re required to register with a specific party. Pennsylvania, for example, has closed primaries—someone registered as “Democrat” would not have been able to choose between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, etc. during the 2016 primaries.

Because of the fluid nature of political parties, there’s no legal requirement for what it "means" to be a Republican or Democrat. The only repercussions for Justice, if there are any, will be, well, political.

The Democratic Governors Association, for instance, released a scathing statement following Justice’s announcement, accusing him of "deceiving the voters of West Virginia when he ran as a Democrat 8 months ago."

Said another way: politicians can switch their party affiliations at any time—but so can those who voted for them.

Justice is one of many public officials who’ve switched teams. Some notable party hoppers include:

Strom Thurmond

In 1948, Strom Thurmond ran for President as a "Dixiecrat" who opposed racial integration. While he never served as President, he was a South Carolina senator from 1954 to 2003. Initially, he was a Democrat, but in 1964, because of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, he switched parties to Republican.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton grew up in a politically conservative household, and as a teenager in 1964, she campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. As a student at Wellesley, she even served as president of the Young Republicans Club. After graduating, however, Hillary moved to the left and stayed there.

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt decided he wasn’t done serving as President after his second term. Alas, William Taft had secured the Republican nomination. No bother—Teddy decided he’d just form his own party, the progressive "Bull Moose" party. He lost to Woodrow Wilson.

Ronald Reagan

As a young man, the former idol of the Republican party was a Democrat: he supported FDR and tried to persuade Dwight Eisenhower to run for President as a Democrat. But then, as Reagan was fond of saying, "I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." In 1962, his anti-communist views led him to switch parties, and he was sworn in as the Republican Governor of California in 1967 before becoming President in 1981.

How do you feel about elected politicians switching parties? Should officials have to carry out their terms in the party they were voted in as? Hit the Take Action button and let your reps know if expect them to stay in their checked box.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(76)
  • Joshua
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Justice is a sad excuse of a politician. He conned the people of West Virginia. I feel if you get elected as a Democrat you should have to remain in the party your elected to represent. For him to up and change parties after 8 months shows he was out to win a election and serve his own interests. Such a shame.

    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
  • Shaundi
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Regardless of party affiliation. If I vote for you and you want to switch parties, you should wait until your term is up. Otherwise You are stealing votes based on preconceived assumptions tied to party platforms. It shows a profound lack of integrity.

    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
  • Judith
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Elected officials such a WV Govr Justice should not be allowed to change parties while holding public office. This is called bait and switch. Those in office need to be held accountable to the values of those who elected them while also accountable to all of their constituents. A law should be enacted that forbids this. An added benefit is that if someone wants to change parties, they actually have to NOT hold public office for a bit while they make the change. That should slow down a career politician such as this snake.

    Like (14)
    Follow
    Share
  • S
    08/07/2017
    ···

    They should be made to wait until the next election for their current office position before switching parties.

    Like (8)
    Follow
    Share
  • Ftwchris
    08/08/2017
    ···

    Justice was an opportunist and he assumed that Trump will remain popular, but if history is any indication of how things can quickly go wrong he'll curse the day he did this

    Like (4)
    Follow
    Share
  • Rachel
    08/08/2017
    ···

    Of course they should be allowed to switch- let freedom ring! We don't need one more piece of legislation over a FREEDOM. If you feel like they conned you by switching, then don't vote for them again in the next election. Simple as that. Also, I would like to point out that the only reason this is being discussed is because someone switched from LIBERAL to CONSERVATIVE. It seems like there is always a knee jerk reaction from the left when their feathers get ruffled... personally, if someone's convictions changed, I would want them to switch parties so there wouldn't be a wolf in sheep's clothing. We know where the governor of West Virginia stands and I think that counts for a lot, agree or disagree.

    Like (3)
    Follow
    Share
  • Patty
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Someone elected under the banner of a certain party should have to leave office upon switching parties. It is dishonest to those who voted for that party.

    Like (3)
    Follow
    Share
  • Vanessa
    08/08/2017
    ···

    What a slap in the face to his constituents.

    Like (3)
    Follow
    Share
  • Deirdre
    08/07/2017
    ···

    While I believe that over the course of one's life an individual can change her or his political viewpoint or a party's platform could change in ways that an individual wishes to distance her or himself from, some of these changes are more selfishly driven like the WV governor. He was a long time Republican, couldn't run for governor as a Republican switched and won as a Democrat. Now he switches back. In Nassau County this is happening right now. The Tea Party Republican county comptroller can't get his party's nomination for county executive so he is running as a Democrat in the primary, against a lifelong Democrat. Events like these are lies perpetrated for a selfish end.

    Like (3)
    Follow
    Share
  • Becky
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Justice flip-flopped twice. Anyone surprised by his recent change of heart was kidding themselves. That said, I do not think an elected official should be able to change parties while in office.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Adam
    08/07/2017
    ···

    I think that there are two kinds of answers to that question, and we need to separate them. There is the legal side of the question (should it be allowed?) and the moral side, (is it a morally acceptable practice?). Legally, there's nothing wrong with the practice of switching parties, and I am in full support of the practice remaining legal. We have freedom of speech and expression, even in elected offices. However, it's certainly not very fair to your voters to run on one ticket and then switch midterm. I'm GOP so I'm glad the governor has changed his position, but I wish he would take a view and stick to it.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Joanne
    08/08/2017
    ···

    NO party hopping by elected officials. If I vote someone in to support my parties beliefs than that is what I expect to happen. They are not voted in to achieve their agenda they are voted in to achieve the people's agenda.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Steve
    08/08/2017
    ···

    Yes. If a politician feels that they cannot help their people and switching parties will help them, then do it. This isn't the 1st time a politician has switched parties in midstream.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • BeStrong
    08/08/2017
    ···

    Yes...switch away... while the American voters wonder why politicians think we care about party...we care about our communities and their health and welfare. Someone please tell Washington that we would like to see one person in DC stand up and say.."I renounce party in favor of the people"...

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Bruce
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Leave it alone. Maybe it's just political bs but the voters can sort it out with who they support in their state legislators and the next time at the voting booths.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • SandPiper
    08/08/2017
    ···

    I don't care if they decide to switch, but they should not be allowed to do so during their elected term. It's a misrepresentation to the voter. There are fewer ways for a politician to simply that they are easily bought and have no personal integrity than doing this during an elected term...it speaks volumes not only of that politician, but also of the party that receives them.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Terry
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Another silver spoon for politicians that should not be allowed.

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • Daniel
    08/08/2017
    ···

    It should be... Switch sides = New election .... Let the voters decide!

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • MayasMom
    08/08/2017
    ···

    Partisan electeds should be required to resign if they wish to switch party affiliation before completing their term of service.

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • Rita
    08/07/2017
    ···

    Legislators should have to wait until the next election to change parties.

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share