Closed Primaries Cost Taxpayers Millions - Open Primaries
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Posted on June 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Closed Primaries Cost Taxpayers Millions

Jeremy Gruber
Senior Vice President
[email protected]
(609) 610-1602

Closed Primaries Cost Taxpayers Close to $300 Million
Despite Not Getting to Vote, 26.3 Million Independent Voters Still Foot the Bill

New York – June 23, 2016 – The presidential primaries cost taxpayers at least $287,806,312.9 in closed primary states and at least $427,300,168.79 for all states according to an analysis by election reform group Open Primaries. Indeed the gross lack of transparency by states on the costs of American elections likely makes the true costs of our primaries much higher. While 26.3 million voters in closed primary states were blocked from casting a single vote, their tax dollars still funded the party primaries.

“The idea that our primary elections are simply private party nominating contests is a lie and a deceit that obfuscates the fact that they are publicly run and paid for with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. American primary elections are administered in public buildings and run by publicly paid for employees on publicly owned machines. Our primary elections differ from the general election in one key respect only; that they exclude 26.3 million voters, including half of all millennial voters, and prevent millions more major party voters from exercising real choice in voting.

Everyone should be allowed to vote. Voting for who you want shouldn’t be controversial. We must stop prioritizing personal political advantage over strengthening our democracy. Our politics has become dysfunctional because our election system is undemocratic.”

--Jeremy Gruber, Senior Vice President, Open Primaries 

The primaries are conducted and paid for by the states. Open Primaries pulled data from fiscal year 2016 and 2012 state budget reports, Secretary of State office contacts, Governor recommendations on budget expenditures, and state elections commissions to develop estimates. The average cost per closed state was $12,513,318 and for all states was $10,813,389. The five most expensive primaries by state were:

  1. California: $96,000,000
  2. Maryland: $27,884,000
  3. Illinois: $27,282,500
  4. New York: $25,000,000
  5. Pennsylvania: $20,000,000

To review the full data set, including estimates for every state, visit the Open Primaries website


Open Primaries is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization working to enact open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters, train and support spokespeople, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions. Open Primaries is a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote.

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