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Free Citizen

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

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, July 06, 2009

California's "Open Primary" Proposal

California will have a measure on the June 2010 ballot for nonpartisan state and congressional elections, which are popularly called "open primaries." This Louisiana-style system eliminates party primaries and has all candidates, including independents, run in the same election. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.

I had my umpteenth exchange on this issue at Ballot Access News with Jim Riley of Texas, who thinks the "open primary" is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here are some excerpts from my comments there:

I asked this question, which Jim has not answered: Do you think parties should let non-members serve as delegates to nominating conventions?

Personally, I think independents should be allowed to vote in party primaries, but that’s rightly up to each party-- except in the states (Mississippi and Texas, for example) which force parties to let non-members into their primaries.

The direct primary election had its origins with the Democratic Party of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, in 1842. In the early 1900s, states began requiring parties to hold primaries to nominate their candidates.

About 100 years ago, the oxymoronic “nonpartisan primary” came into usage, around the time that municipalities started using nonpartisan elections. “Party primary” is actually redundant, but it’s necessary to add “party” to differentiate it from a “nonpartisan primary.”

In California's current setup: in the event that a party does not invite independents into its primary, an independent may change his registration as late as 15 days prior to the primary.

I believe that, for state and federal offices, political parties should be able to perform their basic function of officially nominating candidates; the party primary, to be sure, is the most democratic method of nomination.

When parties nominate by convention or caucus, of course, grassroots citizens can only vote directly in the general election.

I see that you’re now calling the “open primary” the “Voter-Choice primary.”

Despite the fervent hopes of you and some others, political parties are here to stay.

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