Posted by Russell Daniels on June 08, 2021 at 5:42 PM
End closed primaries
The Pennsylvania primary election is in the rearview mirror. It’s time now to look ahead to a structural change that will bring an end to a closed primary election system that disenfranchises prospective voters who are not members of the country’s two major parties.
Pennsylvania is among a handful of states that practice closed primaries, meaning that only Democrats and Republicans can cast ballots in the spring contest for candidates seeking major-party endorsement.
It is a prejudicial system, one that gives voice at the ballot box only to segments of the voting public. It is a de facto denial of the principle of one person, one vote. Because not every qualified voter actually gets a vote. Not in the primary.
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania is four-square against the closed primary system. In an opinion column submitted by the league and printed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the league points out that almost 1.3 million voters in Pennsylvania didn’t have a say in this past primary.
“This system puts parties in charge, forcing candidates to play to the most partisan base rather than providing incentives for collaboration and outside-the-box solutions,” the league rightly observed.
A Gallup poll released in April showed that, nationally, some 40 percent of voters consider themselves unaffiliated. Some 31 percent are registered as Democrats and another 26 percent are registered as Republicans.
The Pennsylvania league is leaning in to the work of Open Primaries PA. They support three tenets, as does the Post-Gazette editorial board: fairness in representation, by inviting to the polls more than a million Pennsylvania voters who are shut out of the closed primary elections; accountability in elections, by electing lawmakers who are accountable to the electorate and not just party leaders; and the premise of no taxation without representation, such that publicly funded primary elections are open to all voters — not just those who are registered in one of the two major parties.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has opined in favor of open primaries as has Sen. Bernie Sanders, a former member of the House and a past presidential candidate. Mr. Sanders holds the distinction as the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history. Mr. Schumer, in a 2014 opinion piece in The New York Times, wrote: “Polarization and partisanship are a plague on American politics. ... One of the main causes [is the] party primary system.”
The General Assembly of Pennsylvania must do the right thing and change an anachronistic system that muzzles the voices of voters.