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As Long as We Remember...

May 8, 2008

Another Primary Possibility

Chris Cavey

In November, the entire United States will trudge to the ballot box on the Tuesday which follows the first Monday of the month – General Election Day. Everyone who wishes to uphold their duty as a citizen knows that is the day to cast their vote. So, why then do we make Primary Election Day so complicated?


One debate is raging. Does the party choose the nominee, or should everyone have a say in the party selections? In an open primary, or open caucus, anyone can vote regardless of their party affiliation. In some cases, they can even register that same day and still vote.


If you are a “party guy” like me, an open primary dilutes your voice by mixing it with others who have not claimed to be a party member. Perhaps these outsiders influence the outcome a little too much, thus not attaining a true party choice.


Open Primaries happen in 14 states. This is where a citizen can vote in either party’s primary regardless of their current registration. Other than creating havoc with “the other side,” it makes little sense to actively support a party of a nominee with your efforts and not your registration.


Semi-open primaries allow independent and unaffiliated voters to cast a vote with their particular party’s primary. The Maryland Republican Party tried this in 2000. Even with advertising and promotion, very few independents and unaffiliated registrants made the effort to participate. It hasn’t happened since.


A closed primary is the current system in Maryland. Each person votes within his or her own party structure for a party nominee; it is the most orderly of the choices.


However, we should all know it is not the popular vote totals which directly nominate the party’s representative; it’s the delegates to the respective national conventions. Unless you live in the bottom of a mineshaft, you know the importance of delegate count.


It has been over 50 years since a party had to slug it out at a convention. The last time a convention had to go to a second or later ballot was before televised conventions. The broadcast time is now used to project party unity across the entire expanse of TV Land.


Perhaps we should just designate a system for a national Primary Election Day. Rules could be easy. Candidates sign up to be on all ballots in all states. Voters register enough time in advance to have citizenship and addresses verified. You vote within your party, and everyone in the United States votes on the same day.


We could pick the Tuesday after Labor Day. Then we would only live through about 60 days of hard-core campaign rhetoric and TV ads before the General Election Day. Frankly, if you can’t make a choice within a 60-day window, you should not be voting.


Or perhaps we should not have a popular vote for presidential candidates and only elect delegates to the conventions. The theory of electing a local person to represent you to fight for your ideals and express the collective thoughts of local voters could be refreshing.


On second thought… we already have something similar, and it’s proven to be a non-functional system of supporting or listening to the voice of the people – we call it: The Maryland General Assembly.

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