On Monday, Jon asked “Who Should Vote In Party Primaries” which prompted a good discussion on party registration and choosing nominees by caucus. One of the items brought up in the comments was the concept of Nonpartisan Blanket Primaries. I found that ironic because I had planned to write a post on that very topic…and here it is.
I don’t know about you folks but I didn’t like our new Court imposed 9 week runoff. Like all runoffs, the campaigns were nasty at the end and voter engagement was low. The length of the runoff also drained the surviving campaigns of much needed funds. It seemed to go on forever.
I’ve long been a fan of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) where voters choose more than one candidate in an attempt to produce a winner. However, IRV can be complex and may require the state to purchase new voting equipment, which would cost millions.
Another method of determining the outcome of elections is a Nonpartisan Blanket Primary or a “jungle primary” defined here by Taegan Goddard:
A primary election in which all candidates for elected office run in the same primary regardless of political party.
Also known as the “Nonpartisan Blanket Primary” or “Top Two Primary”, the top two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the next round, similar to a runoff election. However, there is no separate nomination process for candidates before the first round, and parties cannot narrow the field. In fact, it is entirely possible that two candidates of the same party could advance to the second round. For this reason, it’s not surprising that the parties haven’t rushed to embrace jungle primaries because they ultimately reduce their power.
Louisiana has used a version of this system for some time now, as has Washington. California moved to a Nonpartisan Blanket Primary as part of a series of ballot initiatives passed by voters in 2010. Obviously, what happens in California will attract a lot of attention because of the size of that state, but a quick search did not yield and real studies of the impact yet. 2012 was the first election under the new system so it’s too early to gauge the full impact of the switch. According to the Sacramento CBS affiliate:
In California, this year’s general election will feature at least seven same-party races among the state’s 53 congressional districts.
These races are in essence runoffs and I would expect that situation to arise here in Georgia, if we adopted this. But danger lurks for political parties when a large number of candidates from the same party jump into a race (from the CBS article):
The top-two primary has led to other unexpected outcomes. Republican Rep. Gary Miller defeated a more moderate GOP challenger two years ago to win a Southern California congressional district that is heavily Democratic. The two Republicans got the top slots because so many Democrats ran in the primary that they split the vote.
This supports a point made by Harold Meyerson in the L.A. Times:
The first and most obvious effect the jungle system has had is to convey a clear advantage to the party that runs fewer candidates for an office.
But won’t that always be the case in American politics? We have two major political parties, both with factions of various size and strength. These factions often complain that they can’t elect one of their own because too many of their kind run and split the vote.
Anyway, it seems to me the jungle primary is worthy of discussing and considering. I can’t find any evidence that this system increases turnout but it would certainly save money for local governments and the state. It also avoids the scenario where 5% or 10% of the public is picking who holds these important positions since General elections always have much higher turnout than primaries. It would allow us to move our primary to a date of our choosing rather than one picked for us by a Judge, which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.
What do you think? Vote in the non-scientific poll and register your opinion in the comments.