A bill has been introduced in Carson City that would jettison the current Democrat and Republican primaries in favor of an open primary system, in which anyone could sign up as a candidate and anyone could vote for anyone of any party or no party. The top two vote getters would advance to the General Election, even if both are affiliated with the same party or no party.
The bill would make the two major political parties irrelevant in actually selecting their own candidates and reduce them to the role of merely endorsing candidates.
Senate Bill 103 was introduced by Republican state Sen. James Settelmeyer of Minden.
Settelmeyer told the media that some of his constituents were upset that they could not vote in the primary because they were nonpartisan.
As of December, 39 percent of active Nevada voters were Democrats, 33 percent Republicans and 28 percent nonpartisan or members of some other minor party.
The whole concept of partisan party politics is to facilitate persons of like-minded political persuasions to organize and select candidates that promise to advance a given philosophy of governance — though in recent years the efficacy of this proposition has been suspect in Nevada with self-styled conservatives voting for history making tax hikes.
Now, I’ve never been in favor of forcing all taxpayers, including nonpartisans and members of other parties, to pay for the primaries the state puts on for the Democrat and Republican parties. Let those parties pay for their primaries or caucuses or smoke-filled backrooms.
But the open primary system makes it more difficult to weigh the various candidates based on past allegiances and opens the opportunity for Fifth Column candidates to claim to be what they are not. Faux Democrats or Republicans could flood the ballot and split the vote for a party’s real selection.
In Louisiana in the 1970s Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards hatched a foolproof plan to end the Republican Party in that state. He pushed through an open primary under the assumption Republicans would not make it to the General Election, due to heavy Democratic majorities in the urban areas of the state, meaning two Democrats would face off in November.
But the best laid plans oft gang awry. In the next election there were seven Democrats on the gubernatorial ballot, one nonpartisan and one Republican. When the smoke cleared, Republican Dave Treen was elected governor, leading the way for the state to transition to Republican domination.
At least the open primary is better than letting anyone and everyone decide on Election Day in which primary they will vote.
Think of it this way. Political parties are like brands. Without brands who knows what adulterated product you are getting.
Politics is messy. Open primaries just make it messier.
At the turn of the previous century Baltimore’s notoriously curmudgeonly newspaper columnist, H.L. Mencken, pined for more realism in politics:
“I can imagine a political campaign purged of all the current false assumptions and false pretenses — a campaign in which, on election day, the voters went to the polls clearly informed that the choice between them was not between an angel and a devil, a good man and a bad man, but between two frank go-getters, the one perhaps excelling at beautiful and nonsensical words and the other at silent and prehensile deeds — the one a chautauqua orator and the other the porch-climber. There would be, in that choice, something free, candid and exhilarating. The Buncome would be adjourned. The voter would make his selection in the full knowledge of all the facts, as he makes his selection between two heads of cabbage, or two evening papers, or two brands of chewing tobacco. Today he chooses his rulers as he buys bootleg whiskey, never knowing precisely what he is getting, only certain that it is not what it pretends to be. The Scotch may turn out to be wood alcohol or it may turn out to be gasoline; in either case it is not Scotch. How much better if it were plainly labeled, for wood alcohol and gasoline both have their uses — higher uses, indeed that Scotch. The danger is that the swindled and poisoned consumer, despairing of ever avoiding them when he doesn’t want them, and actually enforce his own prohibition. The danger is that the hopeless voters, forever victimized by his false assumption about politicians, may in the end gather such ferocious indignation that he will abolish them teetotally and at one insane sweep, and so cause government by the people, for the people and with the people to perish from this earth.”
In 2014, only 59 percent of those eligible to vote in Nevada even bothered to register. Of those who registered, only 46 percent went to the polls in November, meaning 73 percent of those eligible to vote did not choose any brand of bootleg whiskey.
We have enough corruption in the voting process now. Let’s clean up the rolls and investigate election fraud. Educate non-partisans they can change their status online and revert back for the general election. I had more than a few Democrats who did that in my Assembly race.
If it’s so easy to change status, then aren’t the parties already emasculated?
Why not make it fully transparent?
Bring back the smoke-filled backrooms.
What? Did they tear the El Cortez down when I wasn’t looking?
That bill opens so many possibilities, it’s hard to know whether it would be a good or bad thing. I do think that caucuses are a lousy substitute for party primaries. I think the super delegates in the Democratic party are a throw-back to medieval royalty, and the electoral system is an abomination.
SCTOUS in Jones v California and Washington Grange v Washington clearly stated that a top-two primary does not infringe on a party’s right of association based on the fact voters are choosing the top two regardless of party. There is nothing that prevents a party from screening or selecting candidates they want in the primary to be judged by all voters at their expense. That is their right. With both major parties losing voter share each month; only Non-Partisan gain. 38 percent of younger voters 18-34 are not affiliated with either major party. It’s time to re-look the process and how best to bring civility back to campaigns and legislating.
Of course it is perfectly legal. Other states do it. What is the effect? Many of the Founders despised the idea of political parties entirely.
Agree with the founders warning. Benefit is discourse leaves the fringes voters get more choice & parties could regain members.