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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Illinois "Open Primary, Private Choice" Bill Defeated

The Illinois Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, has defeated,[1] 37-17, the bill for "open primary, private choice." Illinois, like Mississippi, is now one of the 13 states with "open primary, public record," in which the voter's choice of party on primary day is publicly recorded. Eight states, on the other hand, now have "open primary, private choice," in which the primary voter picks a party in the secrecy of the voting booth.

"Critics have long argued that Illinois’ [current] primary system is used by party leaders to intimidate public employees, since anyone can look up the record and see if an employee of a Democratic elected official has pulled a Republican ballot, or vice versa."

The above-linked blog post also says that many Illinois journalists skip voting in party primaries, since they don't want the politicians whom they cover to be able to discover their party preferences.

Sometimes a voter who is able to choose either party's primary ballot makes this selection based on the fact that all or most of the contests are in one party's primary. There are other reasons, besides party loyalty, why a voter might pick a certain party's primary (I, for example, have voted in many Democratic primaries, but I've definitely never been a Democrat).

In 42 states and the District of Columbia, it's possible to find out any voter's party preference. The purpose of party primaries, of course, is to nominate the parties' candidates, so what's the big deal about the parties knowing which voters participate in their candidate-selection process?

States started in the early 1900s requiring parties to hold primaries. Prior to that, the parties in almost all states nominated by convention, and grassroots citizens could only vote directly in the general election. Keeping primary voters' identities secret is a lot like having convention delegates wear disguises (personally, I would go for either a Zorro or a Batman costume).

Furthermore, the secret (or Australian) ballot was not used in the United States until the late 1800s. In 1880, Louisville, Kentucky, became the first place in the U. S. to have the secret ballot.


[1] Mine is the second comment on this blog post.


Anonymous Jim Riley said...

Parties like knowing who votes in their primaries so that they know who to encourage to vote in the general election.

Being a member of a political party should not be a reason for qualification or disqualification from the ballot. Instead of party toughs preventing distribution of party-printed ballots as before the adoption of the government-printed (Australian) ballot, lawyers now do the same by keeping other candidates off the ballot.

Just as effective, and less blood is involved.

Sun Apr 05, 12:00:00 AM CDT  

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