Open Primaries

II - Open Primaries

What are primary elections? As currently administered they serve as a nominating election for the political parties. Ideally any eligible person may enter primary elections regardless of political affiliation. All voters should be free to vote for the candidate of their choice. Recognizing that up to a third of the electorate is Independent and they want to have a voice in choosing their elected representatives they should have the option to vote in Primary Elections. They want to be able to vote for the candidate they feel to be their best choice no matter the party label. There are varied degrees of openness in primary elections, for a breakdown see:

Depending on the state and what their current openness level will determine how much work is needed. Fifteen states have open primaries according to this criteria. “In general, but not always, states that do not ask voters to choose parties on the voter registration form are “open primary” states. In an open primary, voters may choose privately in which primary to vote. In other words, voters may choose which party’s ballot to vote, but this decision is private and does not register the voter with that party. This permits a voter to cast a vote across party lines for the primary election. Critics argue that the open primary dilutes the parties’ ability to nominate. Supporters say this system gives voters maximal flexibility—allowing them to cross party lines—and maintains their privacy.” Three or four states could be described as more than open, sometimes known as a "jungle primary", listing all candidates for an office regardless of party affiliation. Parties can have the option of holding nominating conventions. Utah's conventions determine who gets on the primary ballot. To illustrate, Olene Walker went to the convention as a sitting governor with an 80% approval rating and couldn't even get through the convention to the primary. She would have won a primary handily if she had been able to run. (See Utah's convention system)  

Closed primaries also violate the idea of “secret“ ballots when a voter is required to state their ballot choice or register with a party label. Election workers know. Cost of printing is also greater when all candidates are not all listed on one ballot sheet as opposed to a ballot for each party. Consider the disenfranchisement of Independent voters.

Primary Elections generally draw a very small percentage of the electorate and it is usually only the most committed and extreme party voters. Usually only less than a third of registered voters vote. Primary elections, as currently administered, act as nominating elections for the parties. When the small turnouts and the cost of conducting these elections is considered why should Primary elections be conducted and paid for by the county government’s budget. As stated above political parties could conduct their own nominating conventions or elections. A system such as ranked choice voting as discussed in section VII could be implemented in the general elections. Several states including Alaska have implemented various versions of this type of system. Section VII Majority vote 

Making a comparison between Idaho and California in the way primary elections are run. California has a wide open primary where all candidates, no matter the party, appear on the primary ballot and can be voted upon by any registered voter. They then have a two top finisher general election where the two top vote getters face each other no matter the party affiliation. one result of this system is that the winner has a majority of the vote automatically. Whereas  Idaho allows a party to close their primaries. the Republican party has chosen to do so, so only registered Republicans can vote in their primary, it is a closed Primary. The Democrat party allows Independents to vote in their primary. So Idaho is technically a semi-closed state. If the voter initiative for open primaries passes, the primary would be wide open but it would allow up to the four top vote getters to appear on the general election ballot. Then a ranked choice system would choose the winner who would have achieved a majority of the vote..

FairVote states:

A sharp increase in partisan rigidity in Americans’ voting patterns has led to less competitive state and national elections and more predictable outcomes based on which party is in the majority. Fewer legislators fear losing in general elections, and fewer still can win in the other party’s “turf.” Third parties and independents are shut out almost entirely. These factors combine to mean elections are largely in the hands of primary voters, who are decreasing in number and increasing in hardcore partisan views. The result is more legislative bodies with perfect partisan polarization: every Democrat is rated as more liberal than every Republican, and being a “bridgebuilder” — that is, engaging in high-profile cooperation with representatives of the other party — can lead directly to a primary challenge. America’s constitutional system of governance is based on compromise. When polarization causes that to break down, policymaking can grind to a halt or swing wildly based on which party has majority control.

A good argument for more open primaries from the Mayor of a small city. The full article appears at, 

Category: City/County and State

See Utah's convention system 

Go to: Majority vote 

See Idaho Idaho