Oregon Liberals Argue “Open Primary”

Last Tuesday, August 19, Washington state held the first round of its Louisiana-style “top two” elections for its state and congressional officials. In this system (popularly called the “open primary” in Mississippi and Louisiana), there are no party primaries. All candidates, including independents, are listed on a single ballot, with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advancing to the runoff.

In Oregon, a proposal for a similar system, Measure 65 (M65), will appear on the November 4 ballot. A liberal website, BlueOregon, has been having a lively discussion on this issue, and I have posted several comments (it’s worth noting that the Beaver State now has closed primaries: voters register by party, and neither party invites independents to vote in its primaries).

Here is a portion of one of my comments:

James Frye says, “I am absolutely opposed to M65. We’re not in the uni-party Deep South…”

I appreciate your opposition to the M65 monstrosity, as I’ve been arguing against this concept for years. The Mississippi legislature passed the “top two” (popularly called the “open primary”) five times between 1966 and 1979. Its implementation was (thank God!) blocked each time. In the meantime, Louisiana began using it for its state and local elections in 1975 and for its congressional elections in 1978. Again: Louisiana has heretofore been the ONLY state to use the “top two” for all of its state and congressional elections (and the Bayou State has restored party primaries this year for its congressional elections).

Most Southern states (Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia) use the classic open primary: there is no party registration, and each voter picks a party on primary day.

The “uni-party” South is ancient history. In Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, both U. S. senators are Republicans. Seven of the 11 former Confederate states now have Republican governors (and Arkansas is the only one of these 11 states that has two Democratic U. S. senators).

The Louisiana “top two” system is indeed part of the refuse of the old one-party (truly NO-PARTY) system, in which elections were decided in the Democratic primary, with a Democratic runoff if necessary.

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