The Parties Oppose The “Open Primary”

The Hankster is an excellent blog which is “of, by and for Independents across America.” Its publisher is my friend Nancy Hanks, who is a transplanted Southerner based in New York City. Yesterday Nancy posted a link to a column about Oregon’s ballot initiative, Measure 65, which proposes a Louisiana-style “top two” (a.k.a. “open primary”) election system for the Beaver State. This is my comment on that column:

Under “Reform,” the headline on the piece about the Oregon ballot measure is misleading. NO political party supports Measure 65 (M65), since it would take away the parties’ ability to officially nominate candidates.

Under this monstrosity, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff; this makes it nearly impossible for independents and small party candidates to reach the runoff and thus have a chance to be elected. The two final candidates are almost always a Democrat and a Republican, two Democrats, OR two Republicans.

In a system of party primaries, there is no limit to the number of independents who can run for each office in the general election, and that’s the only campaign that an independent has to wage. In the “top two” system, in contrast: if lightning strikes and an independent makes the runoff, s/he then must wage a SECOND general election campaign.

That’s another downside of the “top two” monstrosity: the top two finishers are forced to wage TWO general election campaigns; this makes campaigns more expensive and hence discourages candidates from running.

M65 hardly qualifies as “reform.” In California (which has had nonpartisan [“top two”] county and municipal elections for nearly 100 years now), the voters rejected the “top two” for state offices in 1915 and for state AND congressional offices in 2004.

When a small party’s message is kept out of the final election, the party loses its main reason for existing (in a system of party primaries, to be sure, each party has the right to have one candidate for each office on the general election ballot).

Why should the voters be limited to only two choices for each office in the final, deciding election?

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