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DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

What are your thoughts on closed primaries?

Asked by DoNotKnowMuch (2974points) May 2nd, 2016

What are the pros and cons?

Do taxpayers fund these closed primary elections for the Democrat and Republican parties?

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17 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I’m fine with it. I just think in states with closed primaries there should be a law that at the time of registration people are warned the state has closed primaries and what that means.

I also think people registered independent in closed primary states who complain they don’t get to vote in the primaries should shut the hell up and pick a party for the election until they successfully change their state to having an open primary.

I also think that when the media talks about how many registered republicans or democrats are in a state they should take into consideration and report that it is a closed primary state. “Independents” who want a say in the primaries register with a party, even when at heart they are independents.

CWOTUS's avatar

The primaries are closed – to voters other than those registered in the party holding the vote – in order to help the state’s party system select a candidate to receive the delegates to the convention pledged to that candidate. It wouldn’t do to have “just any voter” game the system (any more than it is, anyway) to select against the party’s interest in nominating a candidate who best represents that state’s voters of that party.

Nominally, the parties fund their own primaries. Nominally.

Seek's avatar

I think it has created a psychological false dichotomy, causing most people to believe they have to choose between one of two (bad) options, or else be left out of the democratic process.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

@CWOTUS: “It wouldn’t do to have “just any voter” game the system (any more than it is, anyway) to select against the party’s interest in nominating a candidate who best represents that state’s voters of that party.”

I guess this makes sense. But if 44% of voters in the U.S. are independents (25% Republican, 31% Democrat), it would seem that these closed primaries are becoming obsolete little private gatherings. Primary election voter turnout is so low as it is, so we’re talking about mostly < %30 eligible Democrats or Republicans going out to vote during primary. And if only 25% of eligible voters are Republican and 31% Democrat, that leaves about 7% – 10% of eligible voters picking the Dem and Repub candidates that will run in the general.

@CWOTUS: “Nominally, the parties fund their own primaries. Nominally.”

Aren’t many of the issues surrounding the closing of voting locations (in Arizona, for example) framed as cost-saving measures for the city/district/county/state? It would appear that much or all of the costs for providing polling locations and all that goes along with this: police details, etc must be funded publicly. I’m not sure how we can justify any public funding of private party events.

@Seek: “I think it has created a psychological false dichotomy, causing most people to believe they have to choose between one of two (bad) options, or else be left out of the democratic process.”

I agree. I’ve never been a registered Democrat or Republican, and we have open primaries here in Massachusetts.

I’m wondering what the effect would be if all states had closed primaries.

Mariah's avatar

What are the supposed advantages?

I grew up in NY so a lot of my friends are still there. Several of my friends were unable to vote in the democratic primary despite badly wanting to, because they registered as independent and then didn’t switch to democrat in time (and the cutoff for switching was insanely early, like 6 months or something).

dappled_leaves's avatar

I think the US should overhaul the primary process, and either make it uniformly democratic (such that there is a primary in every state, in which everyone can vote), or make it uniformly undemocratic (just have the party choose the leader). This is something that both the RNC and DNC should agree on, especially in this election cycle. It’s the perfect time for them to collaborate to fix the crazy patchwork of the primaries (because they are both being threatened with leadership by candidates they don’t want), and turn them into something that makes sense for the US population as it exists now, and not as it existed centuries ago.

With respect to closed primaries, I think this is an unrealistic representation of people’s political choices, since someone might identify as a conservative, but prefer the liberal candidate in a specific election year, and vice versa. If the voters have any say at all in the choice of the candidates, why should they only be able to influence that choice in only one party? Will they not have to weigh the platforms of both parties’ candidates in the general election? Closed primaries are a bit like shifting the weight of the vote to the choice of candidate, instead of the choice of party. It presumes that the voter will be loyal to a specific party, regardless of who the candidate is. And far fewer people are voting in the primaries, so the process becomes warped.

I keep having discussions with Canadians who are watching your news and complaining about the lack of control voters have over the primary process, then have to remind them – in our country we do not even influence the choice of party leader at all. We vote in the general election; that’s it. To be honest, no one misses it. Our electoral process is a number of weeks, not years, and we like it that way. We don’t risk being turned into Panem by a Trump or a Waldo manipulating the process as if it were a reality show. There is still room for independents, but they have to work pretty hard to get sufficient attention to be taken seriously. Sanders would do well here. Trump wouldn’t. And not only because of their respective ideologies. Trump wouldn’t be able to convince people here that he’s competent.

What do you think of leaving the people out of the choice of candidate, @DoNotKnowMuch?

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

@dappled_leaves: “What do you think of leaving the people out of the choice of candidate, @DoNotKnowMuch?”

Interesting question. This is the first year that I’ve actually voted in a primary, and it was only because I wanted to vote for Sanders. Normally, if I could convince myself to vote “lesser of two evils”, I did. And I’d just assume that the Democrats would likely push through someone who would have the best chance of beating the Republicans. But this year, that math didn’t seem to make any sense, and someone like Sanders actually running made it possible to vote for someone with a D or R next to their name. I’ve voted Nader twice in the past, but in the U.S., third parties have a very difficult time due to being shut out of the corporate media and the whole process.

So, to answer your question: I suppose if the DNC had just declared “Clinton” from the start, and Jeb for Repubs, maybe there would have been enough “anti-establishment” sentiment to say “f*ck off” to both corporate parties. Maybe it would open the door to 3rd parties. ?

Kropotkin's avatar

The whole nomination system is very inconsistent. It seems like it is designed to be obscure and confusing to voters. And the accessibility to vote also appears to be very constrained.

I think a closed primary isn’t necessarily a bad thing—if accompanied by a reasonable registration cut-off date, and adequate notification in the media and by the party of what the rules are, and how people can get to vote. And if voting itself is open for longer and available through a variety of means.

In the case of New York, when I read that the registration cut-off was basically half a year ago, I knew immediately that Sanders had no chance of winning the state. He had those huge rallies of 30k people—and probably just a small fraction of them could even vote for him.

I voted in a party leadership election here in the UK. It was basically analogous to a closed primary. One had to register to vote. There was a clear cut-off date for registration. The voting itself was open for an entire month and could be done online or by post.

Cupcake's avatar

If NY had a reasonable cut-off for changing party affiliation, I would have voted in the primary… as would many other non-affiliated or independents, and Bernie would have taken NY by a landslide.

So it suits the establishment to have closed primaries with ridiculous cut-off dates.

I’m not a fan, as a life-long New Yorker and non-affiliated voter. I think telling me to shut the hell up and pick a party is absurd. I don’t buy into the two party system. I don’t fit into either party. I vote completely based on the individual and not by party (or who supports who). And I would have had to pick a party by OCTOBER of LAST YEAR. But I agree with @kropotkin that clear requirements and a longer voting period would help.

I just don’t buy into putting more and more barriers in place within the process of electing our president. We need less and less barriers and more and more voters.

While we’re on it… I also think it is extremely ridiculous that I can’t volunteer on election days because I am a non-affiliated voter. I should be exactly the kind of person that is allowed to volunteer.

The system is set up to shit on people who don’t buy into it.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I think closed primaries are restrictive and very effectively hinder third and fourth parties from evolving into serious contenders in this country. Florida is a closed primary state and, as an independent or non-affiliated voter, I am often not allowed to vote for my second choice to help get that second choice into the general election. I find this reprehensible in a democracy. Closed primaries are one of the many, many things that are wrong with our election process.

Donald Trump—whom I thoroughly dislike—said one, true thing during his campaign: “The system is rigged.” Evidently a lot of people still don’t believe this, so nothing is done about it. However, I’m glad to hear this said by anyone with an audience, even the devil himself. It needs to said over and over again in order to finally gather an interested audience who sense the “rigging,” and eventually will want to know exactly how it is rigged in order to fix it. I have hope that the awareness of our “rigged” process in our country will grow and eventually the people will demand change. I would like this to happen in my lifetime, but you can’t get everything you want.

filmfann's avatar

@JLeslie has the same position I do.

ucme's avatar

They’re dafter than a daft thing from daft town

Rarebear's avatar

I am in favor of open primaries, not closed primaries as I think closed primaries are disenfranchising, and I think the party system is anachronistic and should be scrapped.

That said, I have very little sympathy for New York voters who didn’t get a chance to vote for their preferred candidate, Republican or Democrat. The rules were in place long before the election and they applied to everybody. People who say they were independent in New York knew they couldn’t vote in a primary.

Seek's avatar

The thing about New York is that the cutoff date for registration was so early that an Independent voter didn’t have time to research the candidates and change their affiliation before the date.

At least Florida (also a closed primary) had the cutoff only a month before the primary, so one had plenty of time to change from NPA (no Party Affiliation) to either R or P after researching the available candidates.

Seek's avatar

*That’s R or D. Clearly I’ve had enough beer tonight.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake You have a point about the ridiculous cut off date in NY. That certainly should change. As @Seek said, here in FL, and many other states, the cut off is way more reasonable. Still, if you had picked a party you probably would have had an 80% chance you would have picked the party you want to vote in I bet. Plus, if you hadn’t picked it right, you’d just be in the same spot you are as non-affiliated anyway.

Cupcake's avatar

I’ve never paid attention to primaries. My parents don’t vote in them. I didn’t learn about them in school. I never got a phone call or mailing about one in all of my election years because I’m not affiliated with a party. I honestly never thought about voting in one because they were not on my radar at all. Until this election.

I doubt, among independent/unaffiliated voters, that I’m alone on this.

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