Mitt Romney’s 1992 Democratic Primary vote for Paul Tsongas — a technocratic modernizer and reformer, but very much a Democrat — raised some Republican eyebrows last week.
What hasn’t been mentioned: Romney’s vote formally enrolled him in the Democratic Party.
Romney registered to vote in 1976 as what Massachusetts authorities now call an “unenrolled” voter — a member of neither party. Under state law, primaries are open, and unenrolled citizens may participate in either primary.
But under the law as it stood in 1992 — it was changed in 2004 — “essentially enrolled unenrolled voters (commonly referred to as independent) into the political party based on the ballot they chose at the presidential primary,” Michelle Tassinari, the director of the elections division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, told BuzzFeed.
“After voting, a voter would have had to ‘unenroll’ by completing additional paperwork to go back to their ‘independent’ status,” she said.
Romney had not previously been a member of a party, and there had been speculation at times that he would run for office as a Democrat. One option might have been the 1994 Senate primary, had that seat been open. But when Teddy Kennedy sought re-election in 1994, Romney challenged him as a Republican.
A Romney aide confirmed that the future governor had been a Democrat. “He switched back” to unenrolled, the aide said.
That unenrollment was often done immediately after voting, on orange cards which the Belmont town clerk, Ellen O’Brien Cushman, said have been lost. Romney, she said, formally enrolled as a Republican only on October 19, 1993, according to town records.
Here’s a copy of Romney’s original, 1976 voter registration, provided by Cushman to BuzzFeed’s Brian Feldman: