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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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Yorkers May Vote on "Open Primary"

New York City may have a ballot measure in November 2010 for nonpartisan elections, which are popularly called "open primaries" in many places. The city's voters soundly rejected such a measure in 2003, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg's strong support for it.

"In most nonpartisan election systems, all registered voters can cast a ballot for any candidate in the first round (which replaces a traditional party primary), and the top two finishers [regardless of party] compete in the second round. Boston, Los Angeles, Detroit and Dallas have adopted some form of it."

Ballot Access News reports, "Over three-fourths of the 20 largest cities in the U. S. have non-partisan elections, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. The largest city to have partisan elections, other than New York City, is Philadelphia."[1]

While a nonpartisan system reduces their role, the parties, to be sure, still have the First Amendment right to support candidates. The difference is that a party is not assured of having a candidate in the final round, where both candidates may be from the same party.

Some who opposed New York's 2003 referendum, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, are now reconsidering their positions. It seems to make a difference that Bloomberg is today an independent presumably serving his last term, whereas he was a first-term Republican in 2003.

Nonpartisan elections ("open primaries") for municipal and county offices would give Mississippi voters greater choice. In 2009, the capital city of Jackson had six candidates in the general election for mayor-- a Democrat, a Republican, and four independents-- making it possible for someone to be elected with less than 17 percent of the vote. A nonpartisan system, in contrast, would guarantee that the winner always got 50-plus percent.

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[1] In his book The Life of the Parties: A History of American Political Parties, A. James Reichley says, "In 1909 municipal reformers in Boston, allied with Republicans in the Massachusetts legislature, made Boston one of the first major cities to adopt nonpartisan city government. This example was soon followed by other cities, particularly in the West and South. By 1929, 26 of the nation's 36 largest cities held nonpartisan elections for local offices."

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