LOUISIANA – Louisiana Republican Party Chair Louis Gurvich laments the use of the nonpartisan, “jungle primary” system in the state’s elections, and is calling on “that hallowed day when the return of closed primaries dawns in Louisiana.”
Why? Put simply, too many Republicans are running for office. Ironic, no?
The race for secretary of state is headed for a December runoff, a race that could have ended with two candidates in the same party advancing to the runoff ballot. It didn’t, but Gurvich dreads the scenario in which this means two Democrats.
“As a party which has openly disavowed the requirement of voter identification credentials at the polls, a Democrat in this office would be disastrous. A republic without confidence in the integrity of its elections is a doomed republic,” writes Gurvich.
The GOP chairman specifically takes issue with too many underfunded Republicans running for office, and “fratricidal attacks” among these candidates. He said the party was within 60,000 votes of two Democrat advancing to the November election.
Again, it didn’t happen, and 60,000 votes is a margin of 4 percentage points between the second place Democrat and the first place Republican, who actually took the most votes on Election Day.
Regardless, the problem Gurvich has really doesn’t come down to the system, so much as it is the Republican Party’s inability to keep its house in order and keep the peace among candidates running with an (R) next to their name.
The parties’ inability to control who ends up on the general election ballot irks party leaders in states with nonpartisan systems like the “jungle primary” in Louisiana or the nonpartisan, top-two open primary in California and Washington state.
The problem Gurvich has really doesn't come down to the system, so much as it is the Republican Party's inability to keep its house in order...
That is why Gurvich wants to move to a closed primary process. That gives these parties and their members an inherent advantage to decide who ends up representing all voters, while marginalizing and disenfranchising the voices of those outside the major parties.
This is not to say that the “jungle primary” does not have its issues. For instance, issues like vote splitting and the spoiler effect (as we see in Gurvich’s op-ed) exist.
And, if a race does go to a runoff, it won’t be decided when the most voters participate, ensuring that the winner will not actually have majority support from the largest voting bloc in the election.
This is a dilemma for voters. But that is what matters most: How does the system affect voters, first?
Does the system create a level playing field for voters? Does it empower their voice at the ballot box? Does the system serve the nonpartisan, public purpose of bolstering voters’ rights while creating a system where voters can leverage their power to create greater competition among candidates for their vote?
That is a system that nonpartisan reformers strive for, whether we are talking about nonpartisan open primary reform or anti-gerrymandering reform or reform to replace the choose-one voting method with an alternative method like ranked choice voting or approval voting.
However, finding the absolute perfect electoral method is not easy. It may require trial and error. It may not work for every city, county, or state.
More importantly, though, nonpartisan reform requires patience. Our elections will not get better overnight. It will require big leaps at times (adopting bold, new proposals), and it will require baby steps to ensure we have the best system for voters.
Gurvich, like many party leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties, believes the two largest private political corporations in the US are entitled to control of the electoral process. They believe the system exists solely to serve their interests and the media and moneyed interests who support them.
Gurvich could not be more wrong.
The system should serve the interests of voters. It should empower their voice. It should encourage greater competition for their vote.
Parties and candidates should have to work for more people’s votes. That is how we get to a more representative, more accountable, and healthier political process.