Senator Bernie Sanders wants all states to adopt open party primaries. He feels that many young people that identify as independents are being deprived of their right to vote in the primaries. In 15 out of our 50 states, open primaries are being held. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. In many states, including Virginia, there is no option listed to affiliate with a political party when registering to vote; therefore, these states have nonpartisan registrations.
Partisan primaries began about 100 years ago to help Americans choose party nominees and restrict the power of the parties. However, 40 percent of voters today do not wish to choose to affiliate with either major party. This shift in preference has led many states to adopt other forms of primary elections.
There are four types of primaries in the United States. The first type is a closed primary, which is a partisan vote that restricts voters to voting within their chosen party affiliation. The next is Sanders’ favorite, open primaries; these are open to all voters, but voters are required to choose one party’s ballot to vote on.
Another primary option is a combination of both a closed and open primary. The mixed primary allows political parties to decide how the primary process will be executed. Parties may require voters to declare a party for voting day.
The last type of party is a top two, nonpartisan primary. This last type allows all voters to vote on their favorite top two candidates. The top two candidates move onto the general election, if they succeed in winning their parties’ nominations.
Some who are in opposition to open primaries argue that closed primaries do not restrict anyone from voting. They believe that anyone who wants to vote in a particular party should just register in that party and switch later if they change their mind. Another argument is that voters may try to sabotage the party they are not affiliated with if given the choice between ballots.
Supporters of open primaries are arguing that this type of primary is the most impartial way for voters to have a voice. According to openprimaries.org, “86 percent of Americans believe the government is broken under the closed primary system.” They also state that “75% of elected officials in this country are winning office without having to communicate with voters outside their own party.”
If an open party system would be adopted in the last 35 states, then politicians would be required to work much harder to stay in office. They would need to target all individuals instead of just voters within their party.