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We Need an Open Primary System

A way of breaking the control of government by the two-party system.

What is it?
  • An open primary is a primary election in which any registered voter can vote in any party's primary. Voters choose which primary to vote in, and do not have to be a member of that party in order to vote.

    Generally, a registered voter will simply select a party's ballot at the polling place on the day of the primary. (source)

  • "In a nonpartisan blanket primary, all candidates appear on the same ballot and the two highest voted candidates proceed to the runoff, regardless of party affiliation.[2] The constitutionality of this system was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2008,[3] whereas a partisan blanket primary was previously ruled to be unconstitutional in 2000.[4] In the United States, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin. California's decision to adopt an open primary system was particularly controversial in June of 2010 through proposition 14th.[5] As the country's most populous state, its overwhelming voter approval of the proposition widened many eyes about the potential of open primaries across the country and around the world, enlivening the debate on the topic to a new level." (source)

Arguments for Open Primaries

  • "...the present system isn’t working very well. Young people are disaffected and cynical about electoral politics and only getting more so." (source)
  • "The goal is to increase voter participation – only about 20 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in [recent primaries]  – and to attract young voters who increasingly don’t want to affiliate with either party." (source)

Those who support it:
USAToday editorial:
  • As a general rule, anything that the far right and the far left both decry is a decent idea. And so it is with open primaries. While they can be the subject of dirty tricks, they are more likely to produce candidates who are moderate enough to win in general elections and be more effective in office.
  • The biggest winners in open primaries are the voters. The electorate is growing more and more polarized, as evidenced by a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Even so, more people still describe their political views as mixed (39%) than as liberal (34%) or conservative (27%).
  • Thanks in part to gerrymandering in House districts, Congress is a good bit more polarized than the electorate. That is a major problem, as the polarization is making routine governance difficult and impedes solutions to long festering problems such as climate change, immigration and benefit programs.
  • Opponents of open primaries assert that open primaries violate parties' rights of association. The only problem with this argument is that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of open primaries.

Even millionaires support it:

  • "A Houston billionaire who has given $1.5 million in support of a ballot measure to change Oregon's primary election system said the proposed format is one of the few solutions to lessening dysfunction in Washington, D.C.

    John Arnold, 40, said he'd like the proposed "top-two" system to spread nationally as a way to reduce the influence of political insiders and highly partisan voters. His contributions to the group Open Primaries make him the largest donor of the campaign. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given $1.25 million directly to the "Yes on 90" campaign." (source)