Has time come for a ‘top two’ primary system? - Bonner County Daily Bee: Editorials

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Has time come for a ‘top two’ primary system?

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 10:00 am

Disenfranchising voters is never a good thing.

Which is why it’s time to end Idaho’s rigid party system, which favors the Republican and Democrat parties. Instead, let’s switch to a “top two” primary system like that adopted by Washington voters in 2004 and which has successfully run in Louisiana for years. A similar system, through Proposition 14, was adopted recently in California.

Under such a system, the two candidates with the most votes in the primary move on to the general election. It may be a Republican and a Democrat. It may be two Republicans. It may be two Democrats. Or it may be someone who chooses not to identify a party affiliation or is running on the “Purple People Eaters” party.

In Washington, candidates list their party preference and have a certain number of characters to describe that preference. The primary applies to federal partisan offices such as U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, statewide partisan offices such as governor and county partisan offices such as commissioner. It does not apply to presidential or vice president or political party precinct committee officers.

The purpose of the primary, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s website, is not to select each party’s nominees. Parties are free to conduct their nominating procedures according to their own rules, at their own conventions, meetings or caucuses. They’re free to develop the criteria that best fits their members and their views of what their party should be without outside interference.

It gives voters — all voters — the ability to have a say in their state.

It gives the political parties — all of them — greater control over their part of the process.

It gives the state — the entire state — candidates who reflect its people. The same goes on the county level.

The Senate State Affairs Committee, voting along party lines, Wednesday approved legislation that would give the state’s political parties the option of closing primary election to those voters willing to register with that party. It now goes to the full body for vote.

The legislation stems from a federal court ruling which found Idaho’s decades-old system of open primaries to be unconstitutional. The ruling is being appealed by New York-based Committee for a United Independent Party.

If the bill passes, the state GOP is widely expected to limit participation in the 2012 election to registered Republicans. It would make voter registration public record and set forth rules on disassociating from a political party.

The GOP has the right to say who their candidates should be — as do the Democrats.

It’s understandable that some don’t want others crashing their party without an invitation — setting aside the fact that the practice has a long history by folks on both sides of the aisles or that the ruling gives the dangerous appearance of political parties having the right to more say in the process than the average voter.

That’s the beauty of moving to a top-two system in Idaho.

The parties get their say — the ballots could even indicate who is the endorsed candidate.

The voters get their say — encouraging participation instead of discouraging it.

And the state? The state gets an engaged electorate where ALL are invited to the party.

Caroline Lobsinger is the managing editor of the Daily Bee.

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  • Richard Hurtz posted at 8:02 am on Tue, Apr 3, 2012.

    Richard Hurtz Posts: 51

    waisting your vote. too funny. no voting with your conscience with this guy. pick a side or waist it. : ))))))

  • backlash posted at 4:58 am on Sat, May 14, 2011.

    backlash Posts: 1509

    What we need is a first and second choice election ballot which would allow a vote for a third party not to be waisted. Voting for Rand Paul, Nader or Perot was wasting your vote as you know he would not get elected. This would allow a third party to gain strength. (it will never happen)

  • Frank's posted at 5:12 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    Frank's Posts: 308

    Either the Republican Party will move further to the right and remain the
    majority party in Idaho, or the Democrats will gain more seats as a result
    of a more conservative Republican Party due to the closed primary. It
    all depends on the state of the economy in 2012.

    I believe if Donald Trump is serious and runs in 2012 for president, he
    will be a top tier candidate in the Republican primary, who could win.
    Again it all depends on the state of the economy in 2012.

    Who would have thought that Donald Trump, a pompous playboy from America’s
    dying financial center, New York City, would pick up Pat Buchanan’s
    America First banner and run with it in 2012.

    Can you imagine Trump’s babes in the White House. Yikes!

    This will be a crazy election.

  • Bob Wynhausen posted at 2:54 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    Bob Wynhausen Posts: 9046

    Frank, I think you might find that just the opposite is true. The R's who are especially active in the primaries will be the most conservative and will nominate the most conservative candidates. Look what's happened to the leadership of the Idaho Republican Party. The ran off the moderates and now are led by a conservative zealot, Norm Semanko.

    The closed primary will likely nominate very conservative candidates. In many instances, they will be too conservative to appeal to Independents. Since there are more Independents than either R's or D's they will be the critical voting block and will be less likely to support a very conservative candidate.

    It wasn't the Hispanics who defeated Republican gubernatorial candidates in Calif. It was the nomination of candidates like Meg Whitman (41%), Bill Simon (42%) (who lost in 2002 to Gray Davis who was recalled, you can't get much worse than that), Dan Lungren (38%). The last R to be governor, before Arnold, was Pete Wilson, who can be reasonably described as a moderate, as was Arnold. The most conservative governor of the last 60 years, in my opinion, was George Duekmejian, the R who preceeded Wilson. I think he was more conservative than Reagan.

    Since we are going to see closed primaries, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

  • Frank's posted at 2:08 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    Frank's Posts: 308

    What killed the Republican Party in California is the unlimited immigration of
    left leaning Latin Americans into that state. It’s just a matter of time before
    Mexico’s political parties will start running candidates in California. However,
    there are a few unintended consequences to open borders. The defeat of gay
    marriage propositions by Latin Americans in California is one of those consequences.
    I’m confident, however, the policy making leftist courts will eventually nullify their votes in favor of gay marriage.

    Most voters in Washington, Oregon and California are leftist Democrats. Conservatives
    have no chance to win elections in those states. Running a leftist Republican against
    a leftist Democrat does not offer the voter a choice. The Democrat will win anyways.

    I suspect the top-two scheme promoted by the Bee is a reaction to closed primaries,
    which give conservative Republicans a better chance to win elections in Idaho. Obviously,
    the left intends to advocate such schemes to stop conservative candidates from winning
    under the new closed primary system. In a fit of hysteria, the left falsely claims their voters, who represent the minority in Idaho, are unfairly disenfranchised when conservative candidates win.

  • Bob Wynhausen posted at 5:04 pm on Thu, Mar 31, 2011.

    Bob Wynhausen Posts: 9046

    I’m a firm believer that card carrying members of a political party should choose their candidates for election to office. For that reason I’ve always favored closed primaries.

    There are a couple of problems with closed primaries. First, as pointed out here, they exclude Independents. Second, they often select candidates from the extremes of the parties. That is particularly true of the Republican Party because those most active in the primaries are the conservatives. As a result they select candidates who are too far out of the mainstream to win in a general election. That’s why Washington, Oregon and California have not elected a Republican governor in years (Schwarzenegger is an exception. But he was the result of the recall of Gray Davis and is not terribly conservative.) Washington is now using the top-two system, but still has two Democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor. Washington has also found a way for parties to nominate their candidates for the ballot, so there is no reason to believe a similar system can’t work here.

    However, if the R’s think the current system permits mischief making by the I’s and D’s in primary elections, they are unlikely to support top-two.

    They may change their mind when they find that the candidates coming out of the closed primary are losing in general elections because they are too extreme. As a liberal Democrat I am hoping that closed primaries will result in more D’s being elected to the legislature, returning some balance to the legislative process.

  • Idahome posted at 4:14 pm on Thu, Mar 31, 2011.

    Idahome Posts: 207

    Rather than a top-two primary, an open primary is the better method for keeping the public engaged. The two parties are more and more controlled by special interests and big money lobbyists. Closed primaries present idealists, theorists and bought-off candidates. An open primary, where anybody is able to vote for anybody, does a better job at ensuring the respective political parties put forth middle-ground, realists who understand the importance of supporting all the constituents of their district, not just the fat cats in their party.

  • Richard Winger posted at 10:45 am on Thu, Mar 31, 2011.

    Richard Winger Posts: 1

    You are right, disenfranchising voters is never a good thing. A top-two system disenfranchises many voters in the general election. If the United States used a top-two system to elect a president, the only candidates for president who would have been allowed to run in November 2008 would have been Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Each of them got 16,000,000 votes in presidential primaries across the nation. No Republican presidential candidate got as many as 10,000,000 votes, because the Republican field was split among so many candidates, whereas the Democratic race was essentially a 2-person race all year. Would you want a general election campaign between just two Democrats?