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Harold Meyerson Op-Ed Says Top-Two Primaries Aren’t Good Policy

Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large for The American Prospect, and an opinion writer for the Washington Post, has this piece about top-two primaries. The linked article is from the Madison, Wisconsin daily newspaper, but the article also appeared in the Washington Post. Also, the piece appeared in The Oregonian, Oregon’s largest newspaper, on July 25.

Also, see this piece in Roll Call by Nathan L. Gonzales. Gonzales points out that Schumer doesn’t seem to know that Virginia has open primaries.

9 Responses

  1. Dale

    My question is: why is Schumer pushing this? Top-two didn’t help his party, non-partisan districting did; so why push this instead of that?

    I have a theory, and it’s that non-partisan districting–while good for Democrats overall (at least in California)–was not so nice to incumbent politicians of either party, and Schumer would rather protect incumbent Democrats by pushing this false narrative, than support a reform that aids the party at their expense.

    Or “I’d sooner believe he’s corrupt than stupid.”

  2. Jim Riley

    Do you think that a citizen should be able to contribute to candidates for different offices from more than one party?

    For example, a Democrat for governor, Republican for lieutenant governor, independent for senator, Libertarian for legislator, and so on?

    • Susan

      Yes, I do. I also think voters should be able to vote one ballot, in the primary, listing all the candidates in each race; regardless of party affiliation.

  3. Susan

    Below is my editorial as it appeared in the Lorain Journal, Lorain OH recently”:

    On May 6, 2014, Ohio voters went to the polls to cast their ballot for nominees for the General Election – if, that is, they were registered as a Democrat, Republican or a member of a qualified minor party with a candidate in the race in their district.
    The latest 2014 primary overview report from the Lorain County Board of Elections, shows only 30,091 in 202,672 Lorain County voters participated in the election; less than 15%. Low voter turnout is undoubtedly caused by a number of factors, but one thing these anemic numbers reflect is the fact that, because not all voters choose to be affiliated with one political party or another, they often choose not to vote in the primary as they can only vote on issues.
    In fact, the number of voters who choose to remain unaligned with a political party for purposes of voter registration continues to grow. And, according to Gallup’s 2014 polling, voters who self-identify as an “Independent” have grown to represent 42 percent of the national electorate, outnumbering voters who identify as either Democrats (30 %) or Republicans (23 %).
    In Ohio’s “semi-open primary” affiliated voters can check into their polling location and request one or the other major party ballots to see a list of candidates to choose from. “Issues Only” voters are officially categorized as “non-declared” (also referred to as unaffiliated or Independent voters). They are relegated to an electoral limbo during the state’s primary election, with their voices silenced until the November general election.
    Independents view the “top two” form of primary as a better system. Established in Washington and California, it does away with partisan primaries all together in favor of a system with two rounds of voting in which all voters participate on an equal footing regardless of what their party affiliation (or non affiliation) may be. The top two vote getters, in each race, in the first round go onto the general election; regardless of party.
    All taxpayers in Ohio pay for primary elections. Since all taxpayers, regardless of their voter registration, are obliged to foot the bill for these elections, all taxpayers who are registered to vote should expect to have the right to vote for all candidates in all races at primary elections.
    It’s time for Ohio to move toward an election process that’s inclusive of those hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised voters, thereby increasing the voter pool and allowing political candidates the opportunity to be held accountable by a greater number of individuals.
    Some insiders within the Democratic and Republican Parties oppose a more inclusive system, arguing that allowing unaffiliated voters access to their ballots would violate their right of association. But a political party’s right to associate should not trump an individual’s right to vote in a primary election for candidates wanting to represent the people by serving in a public office.
    The conversation has begun. If you are interested in hearing more about going beyond the partisanship inherent in our election process, join us on October 10, 2014 at Oberlin College for a panel discussion in exploration of “Moving Beyond Partisanship.”
    Susan Doup Wakeman, OH
    Member, Independent Ohio http://www.independentohio.org Member, IndependentVoting.org http://www.independentvoting.org

  4. Richard Winger

    Susan, why even have primaries, if primaries aren’t going to be used to help parties choose their nominees? Why not just abolish them as Louisiana has done? This is the one question I never see an answer to, from supporters of top-two systems.

    • Jim Riley

      Louisiana has a primary.

      http://www.sos.la.gov/ElectionsAndVoting/PublishedDocuments/ElectionsCalendar2011.pdf

      You will note that the October 22 election is the gubernatorial primary, while the November 19 election is the gubernatorial general. Louisiana only has statewide and legislative general elections every four years (2011, 2015, etc.).

      They do hold a few elections in even years. The November election is called the Fall Primary and Congressional election.

      When the Northern hegemons set the uniform election date for House of Representatives in 1872, congressional terms did not begin until March, 4 months later, and the newly elected House of Representatives typically did not meet until December of the following year, almost 13 months later. There was plenty of time to hold additional trials.

      Before the government-printed ballot, it was essentially impossible to hold a runoff, in the sense of having a restricted set of candidates so as to ensure a majority.

      If a candidate did not receive a majority, a new trial would be held a couple of months later. This sometimes meant that no one was elected, as voters continued to vote for the same party.

      This led to the disuse of majority requirement. Once the government-printed ballot was in place, a runoff was feasible.

      But the 20th Amendment shifted the congressional terms to January, reducing a 4 to 13 month gap, to a 2 month gap. There is hardly room for a runoff. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas is hardly a good time for an election.

      There are also possible objective reasons for not having primaries being decisive. A second election permits the voters to focus on the two top vote-getters. It is not unknown for a majority leader in Nebraska to be defeated in the general election. A Green candidate in Minneapolis defeated his opponent who had received a majority in the primary.

      It has been suggested that Diane Feinstein found her voice and defined herself in the mayoral runoff against Quintin Kopp. Had she not been elected mayor, it is unlikely that she would now be senator.

      Congress should permit states that hold an initial congressional election in which all candidates appear on the ballot, and any voter may vote for any candidate to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Wednesday in September.

      The state may make such an election decisive in case there is a majority, and if not a second election would be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, eight weeks later.

      Miltary and overseas voters should be permitted to cast a conditional ranked ballot for the general election.

      All congressional primaries should be held within 5 months of the general election (June or later).

  5. Richard Winger

    Louisiana does not have primaries, just as France doesn’t have presidential primaries. France holds a presidential election. If no one gets 50%, then there is a run-off. Similarly, Louisiana just holds elections. If no one gets 50%, there is a run-off. No one ever refers to the first round in French presidential elections as a “primary.”

  6. Jim Riley

    Don’t they refer to it as the “premier tour”?

    The word “primary” simply means first. It does not mean “segregated partisan nominating process.”

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