“Open Primaries” For Municipal Elections

The October 25 Clarion-Ledger ran a shortened version of my letter (“Municipal ‘open’ primaries needed”). By deleting the next to last paragraph, the paper has left its readers in the dark as to the meaning of the last paragraph. Furthermore, the situation described in the deleted paragraph is what fires people up on this issue. Here is the complete letter:

Jere Nash’s October 13 piece notes that the November 4 ballots will include candidates for county election commissioner. These are nonpartisan elections, popularly called “open primaries.” There are no party primaries, and all candidates run in the same election. This is also the way that we conduct elections for state and county judges as well as special elections to fill vacancies in offices.

We could give Mississippi voters greater choice by changing to “open primaries” in municipal elections, just as the big majority of U. S. municipalities already have. There doesn’t seem to be a Republican method of fixing potholes or a Democratic method of cleaning out ditches.

What sometimes happens in the present setup is that all or most of the candidates for mayor will run in one party’s primary, while all of the candidates for council member run in the other party’s primary. Thus, residents of such a ward or district may vote for mayor or council member, but not both. Hattiesburg and Tupelo were two cities in which this occurred in 2005.

Perhaps we should start a betting pool as to which municipalities it will happen in next spring.

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