What’s All the Fuss in #IDPol: Primary election vs. nomination—Denney and Woodings

Back in 2011, the state Republican Party successfully sued for the right to close their primary elections. Over the past few days, much has been discussed about the candidates’ for Secretary of State in Idaho and their opposing views about the closed primary in the state.

For the average citizen who doesn’t necessarily follow the ins and outs of political happenings in off-election years, this might seem like a confusing debate. And so, we’ve outlined the two different schools of thought here. On one side of the coin, some think that primaries should be open (that everyone should get a say in who ultimately runs for elected office) while others think only those affiliated with a party should have a say in who is their ultimate nominee for political office.

To be clear, we are not taking a stance as to whether or not the primaries should be limited to their respective parties. Rather, we’re looking to get everyone up to speed so that they can come to their own conclusions.

Basic Definintions:

Closed Primary: Excludes unaffiliated voters. Leaves registered members of respective parties to choose candidates for elected office.

Open Primary: Any registered voter may vote in either party’s primary regardless of party affiliation.

View 1—Nomination, not an election (Closed primaries; Candidate Lawerence Denney)

Closed primaries, limiting primary elections or nominations to registered party members, enhances a party’s presence and cohesion within a state. Furthermore, it ensures that members of an individual party are deciding that party’s nominee for a general election.

Because the vote is deciding a nominee rather than the ultimate holder of a given office, citizens are not disenfranchised by being disallowed from voting in certain contests based on party affiliation or lack of affiliation. Rather than an “election,” the exercise is a nomination of candidates by political parties. Advocates of closed primaries hold that keeping the participants of the nomination process limited to respective parties leads to stronger candidates in the general election. Some argue that closed primaries prevent members of a given party from voting in an opposing primary to elect a weaker candidate for the general.

View 2—Election, not a nomination (Open primaries; Candidate Holli Woodings)

Open primaries, allowing any registered voter to cast a ballot for a candidate in any party’s primary, gives citizens a large amount of flexibility and a chance to further exercise their rights to elect officials. For example, if we still had an open primary system, someone identifying as a Democrat or an unaffiliated voter in the state of Idaho could choose to vote in the Republican primary. This is unusually pertinent in states like ours where the majority of voters do not identify with either party and there are often unopposed primaries, especially for the Democratic ticket.

What do you think? Should we have open or closed primaries?


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