Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Danger of Open Primaries

Recently I have been doing some research into the election process and compiled this information on the impacts of open primaries on a parties ability to nominate a candidate. In a state like Virginia where we are forced to hold an open primary we should stay with a convention system to nominate candidates so that it is just members of the Republican party who decide our nominees.

In an open primary any registered voter can vote in any party’s primary. When a voter goes to his polling place he can choose to vote in a party’s primary, but can only vote in one primary for a race. The advantage to an open primary is that it encourages voter participation. Indpendents are encouraged to participate in an open primary. However, the downside of an open primary is that it is the registered voters of a state, and not the political party selecting its nominee. There is also a variation of the open primary known as the semi-closed primary which allows independents to vote in either party’s primary. People registered with one party can not vote in the other party’s primary in a semi-open primary. Liberal independents can vote in a republican primary, and conservative independents can vote in a democrat primary in a semi-open primary state. Open primaries permit members of other parties to influence a parties nomination contest, and they often take advantage of it.

In the 2008 presidential election, both parties impacted, or tried to impact the other party’s nomination process. In 2008, John McCain’s early victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina propelled him from a second tier candidate to the Republican nominee. However, through open primaries he never won a majority of the Republican vote in both of those two states. In New Hampshire[1] Mitt Romney won the Republican and conservative vote with 35% and 38% respectively. However, McCain won the state by 5% by winning the independent, moderate, and liberal vote by 40%, 44%, and 45% respectively. A similar thing happened in the South Carolina primary[2]. Here Mike Huckabee won the Republican and conservative vote with 32% and 35% respectively. However, John McCain still won the state by 3% by winning the independents, moderates, and liberals by 42%, 51%, and 47% respectively. In both of these elections, the independents were involved in key presidential republican primaries, and changed the results.

A similar thing happened part way through the Democrat primary. Part way through the Democrat primary when Obama was close to winning the nomination, Rush Limbaugh began what an operation for Republicans to vote in the Democrat primary for Hillary Clinton in large amounts. This operation became known as operation chaos. Following the beginning of operation chaos Hillary Clinton won the Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina primaries. Following the start of operation chaos Hillary Clinton went from being on the verge of losing the nomination to winning a majority of the elected delegates. She ended up losing the nomination as a result of the super delegate votes.



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