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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"Open Primaries" for Municipal Elections

This was written in response to Bill Minor's Clarion-Ledger column of August 18, 2006, "Late Jerris Leonard Pushed for Mississippi Open Primaries." The paper declined to run this letter, saying that it was too "specific" and too "detailed."

"Open primaries," the popular name for nonpartisan elections, make sense for municipal elections. The parties have few, if any, differences on local issues, and the big majority of U. S. municipalities already have "open primaries."

On five different occasions, the Mississippi legislature has passed the "open primary" for our state, county, and municipal elections. In 1966, Gov. Paul Johnson Jr. vetoed it, as did Gov. Bill Waller in 1975.

In 1976 and 1979, the "open primary" was rejected by the U. S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act.

Bill Minor notes that Judge Charles Clark headed the three-judge federal panel that blocked implementation of the "open primary" in 1971. Ironically, after he had retired, Judge Clark said in The Clarion-Ledger that he favored "open primaries."

Notably, only Louisiana uses "open primaries" to elect all of its state officials. And Louisiana, which alone has used this system for its congressional elections, is restoring separate party primaries for those elections, starting in 2008.

Wirt Yerger of Jackson, the Republican elder statesman, has strongly advocated "open primaries" for our municipal elections for 50-plus years. Hopefully, there will be a bill to accomplish this in the 2007 session of the legislature.


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