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Monday, June 23, 2014

Missisippi's Open Primary and Party Raiding

Missisippi's runoff election for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is tomorrow. It is reported that forces involved with the Democrats -- the opposing party -- are trying to boost crossover voting in that state's open primary to boost turnout for incumbent Senator Thad Cochran.

Missisippi has what is called an open primary. That means anyone can vote in the primary regardless of party affiliation.  In many states, however, the primary vote is restricted to people who have chosen their party in advance or in some cases, at the polling place. Primaries in these states are referred to as "closed primaries."  The mechanism these states use to enforce the sanctity of the electoral process is "deferred enrollment," where you have to switch parties well in advance of the primary election.

Before you think that closed primaries somehow disfranchise voters, know that the practice has been upheld by the Supreme Court.  The basis is that it deters the practice they call "party raiding," and helps preserve the integrity of the primary election and by extension supports the right of association of voters who choose to enroll in a political party. The New York State practice (which currently is an almost 11-month deferred enrollment period) was upheld decades ago in an excellent 1970 decision in Rosario v. Rockefeller

What do you think about open primaries? Do you think an open primary defeats the purpose of selecting a political party? 

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