Open Primaries, a national political reform organization, released the results of a new poll Monday that show overwhelming support for nonpartisan elections in Mississippi from a seemingly surprising group of voters. According to the poll, 85 percent of party primary voters on both sides of the political aisle favor nonpartisan primaries.
The statements and questions respondents were asked to weigh in on did not specifically name one type of nonpartisan election system. However, all voters seem to agree with the fundamental arguments behind nonpartisan election reform.
Would closed primaries be a step backward for Mississippi? Should the state have a fairer election system for those who choose not to identify with either major party? For all voters? Would a nonpartisan election system force politicians to represent people, not parties? Should voters have as much or more power in elections as political parties?
In the survey of 250 voters -- 125 voters who participated in the 2014 Cochran/McDaniel Republican Primary (which sparked controversy over how primaries are conducted), and 125 voters who participated in at least one of the last three Democratic primary elections -- an overwhelming majority answered yes to all of these questions.
- 72 percent of voters polled think Mississippi needs a fairer election system.
- 94 percent of Mississippians surveyed believe voters need to have as much or more power as political parties.
- 85 percent of voters polled think a nonpartisan system will force politicians to represent the people and not the parties.
- 86 percent believe closed primaries would be a step backwards for the state.
While 250 voters is not much of a sample size, the responses speak volumes about how voters view elections. The idea of fairer elections that give everyone an equal voice and put voters above private organizations -- like political parties -- is something most people can agree with. It is also a cornerstone to the fundamental argument in favor of nonpartisan primaries.
Mississippi's secretary of state convened a 50-member study group to consider possible alternatives to the current election system in the state. The group's report, released in January, showed that more members supported a nonpartisan, top-two primary system than any other proposed reform or preserving the status quo.
“A Top Two system would bring significant benefits to Mississippi voters as we have seen in other states such as California," said John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries, in a press release.
"The California Legislature is still dominated by Democrats, just as it was under the old partisan system. Today, however, Democratic legislators are much less vulnerable to being told what to do by their party leaders. They don’t just ask party leadership how to vote. They talk to their constituents and vote based on a variety of inputs. So while Democrats may constitute a super majority in the California Legislature, the Democratic Party does not control it. That is a huge and consequential distinction for all Californians and would benefit Mississippi voters as well.”
Based on the questions asked by Open Primaries, it would a leap to say that these voters would specifically get behind a top-two primary system. However, it is clear that most voters fundamentally agree with the purpose of nonpartisan election reform.