Fixing Primary Elections

cropped-bob-shapiro.jpg   By Bob Shapiro

After the 2008 Presidential Primary, some people told me they had registered Democrat at the polls (and then back to unenrolled) so that they could vote against Hillary. Others said they had registered as Republican so they could vote against Huckabee.

So, what is a primary election anyway? Very simply, it’s the process that official political parties use to decide which of several of their

party’s candidates for a particular office will get to represent their party in the general election.


States generally have offered to pay for the very public party media event by hosting a Primary in exchange for the party giving up its right to set the rules for participation. In many states, these rules allow Democrats to re-register as Republicans, and Republicans to re-register as Democrats, at the last minute, to affect the other party’s choice at the general election. How perverse is that?

Part of this is caused because these voters don’t really like any candidate enough to support, so they try to eliminate a choice they really hate. Having all candidates rated Bad to Lousy by significant numbers of voters is a problem that needs to be addressed by giving voters at least one choice they can support in the General Election.

Action Item:

  • Each state party participating in primary elections would
    • Determine the rules for which voters qualify to vote in their party’s primary (eg party enrollment 30 days ahead)
    • Pay their pro rata share of the cost of the election. This could be based on how many parties participate (2 parties each pay half the costs, 3 parties each pay a third) or based on the vote total for each party.
  • Each state would be required, for every federal office, to include a choice of N.O.T.A. (None of the Above is Acceptable) so that voters may disqualify all candidates on the ballot, .
  • Each state may decide the rule for allowing a party to participate in a state-run primary election, but each party may choose for itself whether to participate.

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