On Tuesday, the Democratic and Republican Parties of Pennsylvania nominated candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and the commonwealth’s congressional delegation to Washington.
Yet 1.1 million independent voters were disenfranchised by closed primaries, which are only open to partisan voters.
Nearly half of U.S. states have an open primary in which any registered voter is allowed to participate, and several have closed primaries like Pennsylvania.
The time has come to stop excluding (unaffiliated voters) from a significant portion of our electoral process.Penn. House Majority Leader Dave Reed
A couple states like California have a “wide open” primary. California calls its primary system a “nonpartisan, top two open primary.”
But in many states, including Pennsylvania, unaffiliated and independent voters will essentially be forced by a regime of two-party entrenchment to pick between only two viable options in the ballot booth, with no say in who those two options are. The general election is openly rigged in this way, and the partisan rigging of general elections is codified in institutional policy.
The good news is Pennsylvania’s Republican House Majority Leader, State Rep. Dave Reed, would like to open up Pennsylvania’s primaries to all registered voters in the state.
He’s about to introduce a bill that would do just that, recently saying of independent voters in a memo about the bill:
“The time has come to stop excluding them from a significant portion of our electoral process. These voters should not be left out.”
He also said in an interview:
“So many local judicial and school board candidates cross-file [run for and win the nominations of both parties(!)]. Often elections are decided in the primary and independents don’t get a say.”
Reed believes opening up the primaries in Pennsylvania will allow the two major parties’ candidates to mellow out:
“In recent years, some candidates felt required to be pretty extreme instead of mainstream. I think Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy would have a hard time getting through their party’s primary process today. This forces candidates to represent a broader segment of their electorate.”
Reed even says he thinks most voters are independents and only register for party membership because they feel like they have to:
“I think most people, if they are honest with themselves, are independent but are forced to register so they can vote in the primary. I think there will be support. The fringe elements of each party will oppose it. But a lot of voters are very interested in anything that could bring a little sanity to the process.”
There’s no telling how these nominating contests may have turned out if 1.1 million more registered voters in Pennsylvania had been allowed to participate, but Dave Reed would like to find out.