The Press Herald of Portland, Maine, has this editorial comparing Instant Runoff Voting and Top-Two Primaries. The editorial prefers Instant Runoff Voting. It says, about top-two systems, “Five months before the election, most voters haven’t tuned in yet and won’t have had the benefit of hearing candidates’ messages honed over long campaigns.” This is an apt criticism, and supporters of top-two generally don’t have a response to this point.
Unfortunately, the editorial writers are not aware that the term “open primary” does not mean a top-two primary. “Open primary” was the name given to the primary system Wisconsin invented in 1907, in which there is no registration by party. Every party has its own primary ballot, but any voter is free to choose any party’s primary ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court has issued several opinions which define the various types of primary, and the U.S. Supreme Court uses the traditional definition; so do political science textbooks. Notwithstanding that, journalists all across the country use “open primary” in wildly different ways. Pennsylvania journalists use “open primary” to mean a closed partisan primary in which the party organization hasn’t made any endorsements. Illinois journalists use “open primary” to mean a secret open primary (in which the primary voter chooses a party primary ballot in the secrecy of the voting booth). British journalists use “open primary” to mean a primary administered and paid for by a party, in which any voter may participate.