Myths and Facts - Open Primaries
Blog Background

Myths & Facts

Myth #1:

The primary election is not important.  Women, minorities, young people tend not to vote in them – it is typically older voters who do.  Opening the primaries will not do anything positive and might open the door to mischief. 


Closed primaries are the biggest form of voter suppression in the country.  In 75% of elections, the outcome is determined in the first round of voting—the primary.  In the majority of races, once a candidate wins the primary, which under a closed primary system is limited to members of their own party, they do not face a real challenge in the November election.  75% of elected officials in this country are winning office without having to communicate with voters outside their own party. 

Voters are disinterested in partisan primaries.  When you go to a nonpartisan “Top Two” primary system, you get rid of partisan primaries.  You end the “inside baseball” aspect of elections that turn so many voters off.  You have a public primary open to all and a November election between the two finalists.  

Myth #2:

Third parties are locked out of a nonpartisan “Top Two” primary system.


Unlike the traditional partisan system, a nonpartisan “Top Two” primary system allows third parties to participate in the first round and creates a level playing field for all voters and all candidates.  Candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are on the same ballot in the first round. You could have a primary ballot with multiple Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, Libertarians, etc. in any given race. Independent and third party candidates and voters are no longer barred from the crucial first round. Moreover, because candidates must now compete for all voters (instead of just their party base) in order to win, this gives groups of like-minded voters a lot of leverage to win powerful policy concessions.  It’s this leverage that will catapult the third parties into political relevancy and growth.   

Myth #3:

Nonpartisan “Top Two” primaries dilute the growing power of minority voters. 


Nonpartisan “Top Two” primary elections EMPOWER minority voters.

In California, after voters enacted Top Two nonpartisan primaries, African-American representation increased 50% in the state legislature.  Latino representation increased 25%. 

Within a partisan political system, black and Latino voters are taken for granted by the Democrats and ignored by the Republicans.  According to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, more than half of Latino voters in the 2014 election reported that they hadn’t even been contacted by a single candidate, party, or community organization to ask them for their vote.

A nonpartisan top two system opens the doors for new coalitions and candidacies that bridge the partisan divide and bring together white, black, Latino and Asian voters in new ways. 

Myth #4:

Open primaries minimize competition by allowing for same-party races and more centralized party control of candidate recruitment. 


The majority of election districts are dominated by one party or the other.  Under a traditional partisan system, independents and minority party voters in these districts have no say in who represents them because they are barred from participating in the only election that matters, the primary of the dominant party.  In a nonpartisan system, every voter is empowered and November elections are competitive rather than pre-determined affairs.  Since California adopted the nonpartisan primary system, same-party races have produced 50% of the total incumbent defeats, limiting the power of party leaders to control candidate recruitment and forcing many formerly “safe” elected officials to face legitimate challenges.

Myth #5:

If we went to an open primary system, elected officials are going to have to work harder to keep their seats “safe” and work extra hard to gain new seats in competitive districts. 


Absolutely correct.  All politicians have to work much harder to stay in office under a nonpartisan system. 


Do you like this page?

Showing 2 reactions

published this page in Research & Resources 2019-05-02 15:20:08 -0400
published this page in Research & Resources 2015-09-30 17:37:04 -0400