EDITORIAL: Indiana needs open primary elections

2014-04-20T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Indiana needs open primary elections nwitimes.com
April 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Indiana's primary election system is dysfunctional. What the state really needs is an open primary system.

This month, the Lake County election board argued about the procedures for recruiting high school students as poll workers for the May 6 primary election. Should they be recruited separately by Republicans and Democrats? Together?

It's a reminder that Indiana goes to the expense of running these elections to winnow out the contenders for the two major political parties, not necessarily to get the two best contenders for the job.

In an open primary, voters don't have to declare themselves to be either Democrat or Republican. Instead, they get a ballot that lists all the candidates, as well as nonpartisan decisions like referendums or school board races. The top Republican and the top Democrat vote-getters advance to the general election.

Indiana's primary splits Republicans and Democrats into separate ballots. It's as if each party is holding its own function, under government supervision, at the same place and time.

Voters shouldn't have to ask for a Democrat or Republican ballot, in effect declaring their party allegiance. Indiana's existing system excludes voters who don't want to be identified with a party — often, the moderates — and yields extremists who curry favor with the party faithful rather than moderate candidates who stand a better chance of being elected in the general election.

Switching to an open primary, in which the top vote-getter for each party is placed on the ballot in the general election, would help ease the gridlock in Washington that comes with polarization.

Sure, open primaries would weaken the grip each political party has on the electoral process, but this should be about governance for the people, not about political gain for the parties.

Elect candidates capable of compromise who will represent the vast middle rather than the extremists in either party.

Stop disenfranchising voters who don't want to declare a party allegiance. Stop restricting their ability to vote for the candidate of their choice in every race.

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