Opening the primary election process

Nonpartisan – Top Two Primaries: A Good Step Forward

Nonpartisan-Top Primaries are an innovative system used in California, Washington, Louisiana, and Nebraska (for state offices only). In this system, any candidate, regardless of party, can run. The two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election.

These primaries reduce the power of the parties and their bases, enfranchise moderates and independents, promote extremely high turnout, offer competitive final elections, even if the candidates are from the same party, limit the power of dark pools of money, and generally receive very high levels of approvals from voters in their states.

Nonpartisan Top Two

Top 4 or 5 Nonpartisan Primary – Ranked Choice Voting Final

A Compelling Concept

The Top 4 or 5 Nonpartisan Primary with a Ranked Choice Voting Final Election is an extremely compelling concept that has been eloquently presented by Katherine Gehl, a successful businesswoman, and Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School.

In this system: Primary elections would be nonpartisan, open to any qualified candidate. The top 4 or 5 vote-getters, regardless of party, would move to the general election. The general election would be decided by Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

This system utilizes the advantages of both Nonpartisan primaries and Ranked Choice Voting while minimizing their disadvantages. With Nonpartisan primaries, independents and moderates would be encouraged to run, turnout should be extremely high, negative campaigning should be reduced, and the influence of big money should be minimized. With Ranked Choice Voting for 4 or 5 candidates in the final election, turnout should again be high, negative campaigning should be minimized, moderates and those who can build coalitions should do extremely well, and bipartisanship should increase.

While this system has not yet been implemented, Alaska has a current ballot initiative to change its voting system to Top 4 Nonpartisan Primary-RCV Final Election. Further, Katherine Gehl and her organization, Democracy Found, are working to convince voters that this could be the best of all systems.

Ideal Solution – Top Four Nonpartisan Followed by Ranked Choice Voting

Independent Voters in Closed Primary States Are Disenfranchising Themselves and Forcing Parties Towards Their Bases

Almost 10 million voters in closed primary states are registered as independents. By doing so, these voters cannot participate in the primaries that often decide the elections. While many like to think of themselves as independents, 82% of all independents “lean” to one party or the other. These independents behave like moderates in their parties.

By registering as independents, these voters help to push the party to which they lean towards its base. If these independents chose to register in the party to which they lean, they would have a moderating impact on the parties and would not give up their right to vote in the most important elections. Until the parties agree to open the primary process, independents can act on their own by registering and voting.

Enfranchise Independents

Sore Loser Laws

Sore Loser Laws prevent a candidate who has lost a primary from entering the general election as an independent of a candidate of another party. These laws, which exist in 47 or the 50 states significantly contribute to the polarization of U.S. politics. Candidates understand that if they lose their party’s primary, their career could be over. In recent years, this has happened to moderates of both parties, sending a clear signal to others who might want to work across the aisle—Pander to your party’s base or the Sore Loser Laws will force you into retirement.

Eliminate Sore Loser Laws

Opening the Primary Election Process

Most elections are decided in the primaries, because there are few competitive districts. Parties control the primaries, often blocking independents, who pay their share of election costs. Parties nominate candidates that hew to their bases and avoid candidates who are bipartisan or moderate. As a result, primaries are major contributors to polarization.

There are many different forms of primaries. The worst are Closed Primaries, that bar independents from voting. Partially open and partially closed primaries also serve to discourage independent. Of the current primary forms, we advocate Primaries open to unaffiliated voters, which let independents select the primary in which they want to participate, as well as Nonpartisan primaries, which allow all candidates, regardless of party, and all voters to participate in the same primary.

Open the Primary Process