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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bill for "Open Primary, Private Choice"

Mississippi is one of 13 states with "open primary, public record." Each voter picks a party on primary day, and that choice is publicly recorded.

Eight states, in contrast, have "open primary, private choice," in which the voter picks a party in the secrecy of the voting booth. These states are Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Vermont.

Illinois is another of the states with "open primary, public record," and there's a movement there to change to "open primary, private choice." In 2006, a number of localities had advisory referenda on this question, and the proposed change got an average vote of some 80 percent (the proponents refer to Illinois's current system as a "closed primary" and the proposed change as just an open primary).

On March 10, an "open primary, private choice" bill passed a committee of the state Senate, 5 to 4. All four Republicans and one Democrat on the committee voted in favor of the measure.

"If Senate Bill 1666 were to become law, Illinois would become the 18th state that currently has open primaries. Illinois would join neighboring states of Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin in having open primaries..."

Actually, a total of 21 states[1] now have open primaries, and Illinois would become the ninth state with "open primary, private choice." The number of "open primary, public record" states would be reduced to 12. Indiana and Missouri have "open primary, public record," while Wisconsin has "open primary, private choice."

If the Idaho Republican Party wins its federal lawsuit (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa) against that state's open primary law, the number of open primary states will obviously be reduced. Such a win would encourage parties in other open primary states to file similar suits.


[1] In 21 states, both major parties have open primaries. In Utah, the Democrats have open primaries, while the Republicans have semi-closed primaries, in which independents are the only non-members invited to participate.


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