Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A New Type of Primary Election?

Tuesday was primary election day in Oklahoma. That night I looked up the election results online, and also read the comments posted by other readers. Of course, there was the usual back-and-forth about Republican vs. Democrat, liberal vs. conservative views, plus comments on open vs. closed primaries.

On the primaries issue, both sides have a point. In a closed primary, independent voters can only vote on non-partisan offices (judges) and issues (state questions, bond issues, etc.), so a candidate favored by independents could be eliminated and the independents wouldn't have a say in the matter. In an open primary, voters in one party could unfairly strengthen a weak candidate that their own party's candidate can defeat easily.

So, I was thinking, why not a new type of primary? One that allows independents to vote on party candidates, but would not allow voters in one party to vote on the candidates of the other party. I guess you would call it a semi-open primary.

Here's the way it would work:

If you are a member of a party, you get your party's ballot that lists ONLY your party's candidates, candidates for non-partisan offices and non-partisan issues. If you are an independent voter, you get a ballot that lists ALL candidates for all contested offices (including the independent candidates), and non-partisan issues. This will allow independent voters to show their approval of partisan candidates.

Independent candidates must get ten percent (10%) of the vote to continue on to the general election. This will save the cost of added names of candidates that have no real chance of winning or influencing the outcome of an election.

I know this last part will put extra pressure on independent candidates to get out and campaign early, instead of waiting until after the primaries to make a strong effort. But isn't the purpose of a primary election to eliminate candidates? Why not eliminate independent candidates early? I also think it's a fair trade-off for allowing independent voters to vote on partisan candidates.

Besides, strong independents actually tend to muddy up general elections. Remember Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996? He drew voters away from the Republican candidates those years. Democrats tend to think of Bill Clinton as their party's savior after 12 years of Republicans in the White House, but the truth is that Perot was the deciding factor. The same thing happened in the 2002 Oklahoma governor's race. Brad Henry won that year because independent Gary Richardson drew votes away from Steve Largeant. If an independent candidate is strong enough to get past the primary, then that will alert the parties that they must account for that candidate and not focus on each other. Remember Jesse "The Body" Ventura?

Will this ever become a reality? Probably not, but hey, a blog is where people can put their thoughts out there for others to see and maybe discuss. And, you never know who will read this and start a move to make it happen...