Tue 4 Apr 2017 12:40AM

What to do about Primaries?

SW Sara Wolf Public Seen by 21

Even if we pass legislation for Score Runoff or Instant Runoff Voting we will still need to address the Primaries issue. What do you think? Here are some pros and cons of the top 3 options to kick off discussion:

Option 1: Keep our current closed primary system
* Parties don't have to worry about their votes being watered down by others who don't subscribe to the party line.

* More than a 1/3 of Oregonians don't
belong to one of the two major parties and so are completely left out. * Candidates that don't compete in the Primary are written off and considered spoilers in the General Election.
* Primaries cost a lot of extra money and time for taxpayers and candidates.
* Primaries have lower turnout with more conservative voters so the results are less representative than General Elections.

Option 2: Have an Open or Unified Primary where all voters can show preference for multiple candidates from multiple parties if they choose. The top 5 or 6 or whatever can go on to the General election.
* All candidates get to participate in the Primary and debates and so voters have time to learn about the candidates and vet them before the General Election.
* A primary or longer process helps give non-incumbants a chance to catch up and earn name recognition before the election.
* A primary helps narrow down the race so that voters can be well educated about all candidates.

* Primaries in general cost a lot of extra money and time for taxpayers and candidates.
* Primaries have lower turnout with more conservative voters so the results are less representative than General Elections.

Option 3: No Primaries At All
* This would save a ton of money and solve the problem of low primary turnout and less representative results.

* The shorter process would give Incumbents and those with name recognition a big advantage.
* There would have to be another system of limiting the field of candidates to something manageable such as signatures but odds are that parties would have an internal process to just choose their candidates without voter input.
* Primaries were created to stop party bosses from making key decisions in private meetings and getting rid of them might set us back.

Option 4: Keep primaries but let all qualified political parties have a primary. (No more separate rules for major and minor parties). Let parties decide for themselves if they want to open their primary to unaffiliated voters or not. (Freedom of association) Maybe create a separate primary for unaffiliated candidates and voters. Winner of each primary advances to the general election.
* All parties are treated fairly and equally, with the same access to both primary and general election ballots and electorates.

* Would cost a little more to have taxpayer funded primaries for parties currently deemed minor, in addition to the major party primaries.
* Voters who like some candidates from multiple parties are unable to vote for their favorites.
* Current party identities are somewhat up in the air in many cases. How do voters know who they agree with if the parties don't even have a cohesive identity?


Clay Shentrup Tue 4 Apr 2017 1:39AM

With SRV you don't "need" a primary. Parties can hold primaries if they want to, and it's effectively just an endorsement process.


Sara Wolf Tue 4 Apr 2017 7:21AM

I posted this on facebook at RCV OR Discussion Group also and it led to one of the best debates I've had all year! Issue oriented, friendly, logical and well thought out! Thanks guys, you're the best!



William WAUGH Tue 4 Apr 2017 6:40PM

I am in agreement with what Clay Shentrup said on this subject above.

If the general election goes by a voting system that gives the voters equal power to each other over the outcome (which is true of Score Runoff Voting, plain Score, and some other systems) and if the requirements to get on the ballot are the same regardless of major-party support, then the parties shall eventually notice that the purpose of primaries has gone away.

If the general is done by IRV, then the best policies regarding primaries would not solve the problems caused by IRV.

Disclaimer: I live in Virginia.

William Waugh


Sara Wolf Tue 4 Apr 2017 9:27PM

I agree that with SRV we don't NEED a primary. It's optional. As you said though, "Parties can hold primaries if they want to." This means that there will be partisan primaries for the Dems and Reps and that the rest of us will be excluded as we are now. It will be assumed that the winners of those 2 primaries are the front runners (even when they aren't.) Other candidates won't benefit or get to participate in the major party primary spotlight or debates, and by the time the general election comes around, the winner of the dominant party's primary will be considered a shoe-in in any elections where one party is clearly dominant.

Portland/Multnomah county is dominantly Democrat with a strong progressive 3rd party and Independent segment of the population so letting the Dems pick who they run on their own without letting the larger population contribute to the decision gives them a huge advantage while limiting the say of tons of voters.


Sara Wolf Tue 4 Apr 2017 10:21PM

So lets say there is a high school popularity contest. A few students host house parties but most people go to the football team captain's house where there is a pool and an DJ. Only some students are invited to that party. The other kids have a D & D party and a movie night respectively.

Then at Prom there is a vote for most popular. Do you think the kids who weren't invited to the Pool party with the DJ have a fair chance?


Adam Zielinski Tue 4 Apr 2017 10:31PM

Ok here is a new Option 5:

This is really a lot like a combination of Options 1 and 3:

No official state financed or run primary. Parties each get to nominate one candidate to the general election ballot. The process they use to nominate candidates is up to them. It can either be a closed convention, or vote by mail, open only to party members, or also open to unaffiliated voters, or even open to members of other parties, its up to each party to decide according to its own bylaws.

So then each party gets to have one nominated candidate on the general election ballot.

Independent unaffiliated voters can also run and qualify directly for the general election ballot, as can any registered members of political parties that don't win their party's nomination, whether they participated in that process or not.

Parties can also cross-endorse other candidates from other parties or independent candidates if they want, according to their own process.

There is only one state financed and run general election, using SRV.

Yes, some districts are dominated by one party or another. That's just the way it goes. As long as all parties and independent candidates have access to the general election ballot, a wide range of views will be heard, unlike with a top two only general election. Ideas will either be persuasive or they won't. Some entire states like Idaho or Vermont are seemingly locked up for one party or the other. That's just the way it is. But these states nevertheless sometimes elect candidates from the minority party. New York City often elects Republicans even though it is overwhelmingly Democratic. It can happen. A big part of the solution is to get rid of gerrymandering.


William WAUGH Wed 5 Apr 2017 2:42AM

<< It will be assumed that the winners of those 2 primaries are the front runners (even when they aren't.) >>-- Perhaps so, but who are the "front runners" won't matter in the general anymore, if the voting system accords equal power to those who support and oppose a candidate. Once voters become accustomed to the new system, they will understand that they can give full support to the candidates they want to win while still giving partial support to a compromise candidate.


William WAUGH Wed 5 Apr 2017 2:44AM

An election to public office need not be a popularity contest. It's a contest about who is the best candidate.